Endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle in Taunton River
In a stranding season filled with rare events, the Turtle Journal team recovered the first-ever endangered sea turtle from the Taunton River on Thursday morning. An outdoorsman had stumbled across the cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley in a quiet estuary off the Taunton River at the border of the towns of Dighton and Somerset. In the current frigid conditions, by the time we got to the site the turtle lay with an ice cap crowning the top of its carapace.
Location of Kemp’s Ridley in Taunton River
Yes, the Taunton River is a long, long way from Cape Cod Bay from which nearly 200 endangered sea turtles have been recovered cold-stunned this November and December. It’s also a good distance from Buzzards Bay where three Kemp’s ridley were found and Martha’s Vineyard that yielded two cold-stunned sea turtles this year. In fact, this Kemp’s ridley is the first cold-stunned sea turtle we have ever found in the Taunton River, although the Turtle Journal team did receive an unconfirmed report several years ago that a kayaking couple had encountered sea turtles in a Swansea cove in late summer.
Kemp’s Ridley Found Near Rare Terrapin Nesting Site
Coincidentally, the spot where this juvenile Kemp’s ridley was found is in close proximity to a rare nesting site for an isolated population of threatened diamondback terrapins in Freetown, a stone’s throw to the east.
Kemp’s Ridley Covered in Marsh Grass with Ice Cap
When we reached the turtle late Thursday morning, it sported an Arctic ice cap atop its carapace, as the ridley lay under a deep pile of marsh grass near the river’s edge. This specimen seemed in remarkly good condition … if only we could have reached it before conditions had turned so cold.
First-Ever Sea Turtle Found in Taunton River
The spot where the ridley came ashore proved an isolated location quite a distance through the woods from Route 138. The movie clip above documents the trail to the site and the recovery of this extremely rare specimen.
Distinctive Carapace of Kemp’s Ridley Juvenile
The Turtle Journal team brought the Kemp’s ridley to Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet on Outer Cape Cod, where sea turtle rescues in Massachusetts are coordinated by its director, Bob Prescott.
Algae Covered Plastron of Kemp’s Ridley Juvenile