Sea turtles are one of the most iconic and popular animals found at Padre Island National Seashore.
All five of the sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico rely on resources they need at the park and in its adjacent waters. Kemp's ridley sea turtles nest here more than at any other location in the U.S. Juvenile green sea turtles live in the waters here year-round, and adults nest on Padre Island in low numbers. Loggerhead sea turtles also nest in the park in low numbers and forage offshore. Leatherback sea turtles travel through the Gulf and historically nested here. Hawksbill sea turtles also travel through the area, finding food and rest along the way. These species are all federally listed as either endangered or threatened. Padre Island National Seashore is the only location in Texas where nests from all five of these species have been found.
Our Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, the only division of its kind in the National Park Service, works to monitor and protect these animals. In spring and summer, nesting turtles are protected, examined, and tagged. A few are tracked using satellite telemetry. Nests are moved to protected areas and monitored until they hatch. When possible, the public is invited to watch newly hatched sea turtles make their way to the Gulf. Thousands of visitors and numerous media attend these public hatchling releases each year.
In winter, turtles that become cold stunned are rescued, rehabilitated by partners, and then released back into the Gulf. When possible, the public is invited to watch these cold stunned turtles being released. Stranded turtles, found at any time of year, are rescued, if alive, or examined and salvaged for research purposes, if dead. Other research projects conducted by the Division promote sea turtle conservation.
Padre Island National Seashore and the National Park Service have been part of the story of the Kemp's ridley since the 1970s. The work conducted by the National Seashore, led by Dr. Donna Shaver, is an important part of global efforts to save sea turtles. This work could not be accomplished without the help of many partners, volunteers, and communities.
Click on the images below to learn more about the sea turtles of Padre Island National Seashore!