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Rescue of Rare Turtle on N. Oregon Coast Has Unhappy Ending

Published 02/14/2017 at 6:09 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Rescue of Rare Turtle on N. Oregon Coast Has Unhappy Ending

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – When the crew from the Seaside Aquarium responded to a large stranded turtle on the north coast Saturday, expectations were not high for its survival and rehabilitation after rescue. Unfortunately, that was just the case when a rare loggerhead turtle found itself at a remote part of Cannon Beach over the weekend. It survived the trip some 150 miles to Newport's Oregon Coast Aquarium but ended up not living much beyond that. (Above: the loggerhead turtle found at Cannon Beach, photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

The calls came into Seaside Aquarium on Saturday about a 50-pound turtle struggling in the tideline at Crescent Beach, a largely inaccessible section of beach next to Cannon Beach. It's usually only entered by a hike about a mile long.

The aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe called it “quite an adventure,” which included having to float the turtle out through a sea cave to the other side. Crews took it to Seaside where the turtle spent the night, and they continued to try and raise – or at least stabilize – its body temperature. On Sunday morning, Boothe drove it to Newport.

Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium: staff begin floating the turtle through the sea cave at Crescent Beach.

Oregon Coast Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium are the only rehabilitation facilities in the northwest United States authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide the specialized care sea turtles require. This one, like any other large turtle that strands on these shores, lives only in warmer waters and somehow got sucked into the colder currents that brought it here. It quickly became stunned by the cold.

The turtle was dead by Monday morning. The aquarium plans a necropsy to further investigate its behaviors and cause of death.

Jim Burke, the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Director of Animal Husbandry, said loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) rarely strand here.

“Most of the stranded turtles we’ve seen in recent years have been olive ridley and green sea turtles,” Burke said. “The last loggerhead to arrive alive at the Aquarium was on Christmas Eve 2007, and it also survived only one day.”

All three species are classified as endangered.

Olive ridley and green sea turtles are found a little more often than loggerheads, and it's believed those that make it to Oregon waters originate from warmer coastal Mexico populations.

“We hope to learn from this loss but accept that the odds of saving stranded animals are low,” said Burke. “The turtles that strand on our shores are in a compromised state - the water temperature off Newport is in the low 50s this time of year, and these cold-blooded animals prefer water that’s at least twenty degrees warmer.”

If you see a sea turtle or a stranded mammal, you are urged to contact authorities. Use the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) in Oregon, Washington, and California at 1-866-767-6114. Do not attempt rescue yourself or try to touch the animals. Where to stay in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

Below: other sea turtles rescued by Seaside Aquarium in the past - all photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe





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