A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle in the world, was found dead in Walton County late Monday night, trapped in a bar stool floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Sharon Maxwell, head of the South Walton Turtle Watch, said the turtle was found floating close to shore in the area of the Vizcaya neighborhood in Dune Allen Beach. Good Samaritans retrieved the turtle and the stool from the water and called the turtle watch group. “Normally they would perform a necropsy (to determine how the turtle died), but she was too far gone,” Maxwell said. “It’s really sad. There’s no way we can tell how or when she died. We hate it.” Maxwell and volunteer Michael Absure logged the dead turtle and reported it to the state of Florida. The Walton County Tourist Development Council retrieved the turtle early Tuesday morning to bury it. Maxwell said the turtle was found entrapped in the legs of a silver barstool. She speculated the stool may have fallen off a boat or inadvertently made its way to the sea from a beachside resort or restaurant. The turtle’s head was bloody and disfigured when she was found as if she had struggled with the stool for quite awhile. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest and rarest species of sea turtle in the world, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They’re also the most endangered. In 1947, there were an estimated 40,000 nesting females found in a single population in Mexico; in 2011, there were less than 200, most of them in Texas. Maxwell said of the 64 sea turtle nests that have been found on Walton County beaches since nesting season began in May, none of them have been Kemp’s ridley nests. Two Kemp’s ridley nests were found in neighboring Okaloosa County in late May and early June. In the state of Florida, it’s illegal to harass or disturb sea turtles, their nests or their eggs, according to the FWC. Sea turtle nesting season continues until the end of October.

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