The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest and most endangered sea turtle on the planet, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
And now there’s one fewer.
A female Kemp’s sea turtle was discovered dead — with its bloody body trapped in a barstool — just off Dune Allen Beach in Florida’s panhandle on Monday, according to the nonprofit South Walton Turtle Watch.
“This is so very sad, and so easy to stop. Please do not leave your items, anything, on the beach,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday, sharing heartbreaking images of the dead, endangered animal. “Look at her head to see what she went through.”
Michael Ashburne, of South Walton Turtle Watch, said a man who lived nearby spotted the barstool and floating animal, WEAR reports.
“He pulled it dead out of the ocean,” Ashburne said, according to the TV station. Ashburne guessed the turtle died a “long slow death.”
That said, the exact cause of death is unknown.
“Normally they would perform a necropsy (to determine how the turtle died), but she was too far gone,” said Sharon Maxwell, the leader of the turtle nonprofit, according to Northwest Florida Daily News. “It’s really sad. There’s no way we can tell how or when she died. We hate it.”
Maxwell said it’s possible the stool tumbled from a boat or came from an oceanside restaurant, the newspaper reports.
Sea turtles who call the waters off Florida home have already been hard hit this year as a result of the state’s red tide bloom.
At least 90 have been stranded because of the tide, and during their critical nesting season, the Miami Herald reported last week.
But the turtle’s death in the panhandle this week was easily avoidable, according to South Walton Turtle Watch.
“Please spread the word and do your part,” the nonprofit wrote on Facebook, advising beachgoers and boaters to take anything they bring to the beach back home with them.
Another Kemp’s sea turtle was found dead less than a month ago — this one on an Alabama beach — after a beach chair strangled it, McClatchy reported in July.
Stools and litter aren’t the only obstacle Kemp’s and other sea turtles face.
A woman recently called South Walton Turtle Watch to report that she’d seen beachgoers shining lights on a sea turtle that was trying to nest — and that when she tried to stop them, they wouldn’t quit, the organization wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
“Many do not listen even when someone tells them on the beach,” the organization wrote. “So sad and humans are supposed to be the intelligent ones.”
Harassing sea turtles, their eggs and their nests is illegal under Florida law, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.