If you visit the park during sea turtle nesting season between April and mid-July, you might see a bright yellow flag with a black silhouette of a sea turtle flying at the Entrance Station and at Malaquite Visitor Center.
This flag is flown each day that a Kemp’s ridley nest is found anywhere on the Texas Coast. Nesting can occur during any day of the nesting season but when the flag is flown the probability of finding a nest is higher. And the probability of a turtle being on the beach is higher, too. We want everyone to use caution when driving on the beach on days we fly the yellow turtle flag. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest sea turtle, about two feet wide, and light in weight. They typically do not leave deep tracks in the sand making it hard to see them when they are on the beach. Additionally, Kemp’s ridleys can be camouflaged, not only due to the olive-green color of their carapace (shell) which blends in with the sand and vegetation but also, they can sometimes become partially covered with blowing sand or sand that they sweep onto themselves. This makes it difficult for predators (and people!) to see them on the beach.
When emerging from the ocean and crawling up the beach, nesting turtles are cautious. If you see a turtle on the beach, do not rush up to her or you may frighten her back into the water without nesting. While depositing eggs, Kemp’s ridleys enter a trance-like state during which time they are oblivious to what it is going on around them leaving them particularly defenseless to threats like predators or vehicle traffic on the beach. At any time during the nesting process they will not and cannot move quickly to avoid a passing vehicle and can be crushed and killed. They sometimes nest in vehicular tire ruts and this, combined with their camouflage, increases their vulnerability to vehicle traffic.
If you find a nesting sea turtle, sea turtle tracks, or hatchlings, please IMMEDIATELY report them by flagging down a passing turtle patroller, law enforcement officer, or call 1-866-TURTLE5.
Your assistance is greatly appreciated and could make all the difference in protecting these threatened and endangered turtles.
Last updated: November 11, 2023