Rare Sea Turtle, Shark Strand on N. Oregon
|The green sea turtle is actually rather reddish in color (photo
(Seaside, Oregon) – While it was raining cats and
dogs in the Portland and inland areas, it was apparently raining sea creatures
on the north Oregon coast.
Just before New Year's Eve, the Seaside
Aquarium was kept busy with a green sea turtle and a shark both hitting
the beaches of the north coast. The salmon shark find is a common occurrence
on Oregon beaches, but the sea turtle is rather rare.
The green sea turtle - a species which is ironically reddish
in hue - washed ashore in Cannon Beach just south of Haystack Rock, said
the aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe.
"A family from Manzanita was out beach combing and
found it," Boothe said. "They picked up the turtle and took
it to their home where they contacted local authorities. The turtle's
carapace (shell) measures only 12 inches. It is the smallest sea turtle
the aquarium staff has seen on the beach."
|The sea turtle found by the Seaside Aquarium in December,
Boothe said it was likely dead by the time it hit the shore.
Aquarium manager Keith Chandler said these show up on average
once every two years, as this kind of sea turtle normally hangs out about
20 miles offshore. They follow warm currents, and either the current dissipated
into a colder one or the west winds of winter blew the turtle away from
the current – in either case it died of exposure to the cold.
“The last one we saw was a little over a year ago,
around Christmas of ‘07,” Chandler said. “That’s
all we know of. It could be that there were others and maybe someone kept
the turtles for themselves. But people seem to be better about knowing
what to do these days, with all the publicity about these things coming
up onshore. They know they need to call someone, to call the authorities,
and they know it’s illegal to take the creatures.”
|The salmon shark was found in the Seaside area (photo Seaside Aquarium)
Those same warm currents can and do run closer to shore
at times, and the current could’ve brought the green sea turtles
closer to the Oregon coast. These finds only happen in winter, however,
when seasonal west winds are active and either blow sea animals off course
from warmer currents or send their carcasses this way after they’ve
Sometimes these sea turtles have shown up still alive.
“We’ve had a few, and those were taken to Seattle
Aquarium, who has some good luck with rehabilitating these turtles,”
Chandler said. “They’ve been able to release a few down in
The salmon shark was found later in the day on a beach
around Seaside. It had a hole in it, which could’ve been because
of birds picking at it. “It was on the side with the eye, where
the seagulls often work at it,” Chandler said.
The shark carcass also was likely blown in by west winds.
“All sharks die,” Chandler said. “They
just don't always wash up on shore after dying.”
The turtle will be held at the aquarium until US Fish and
Wild Life recover it. The salmon shark – about four feet long -
will be dissected and samples taken by a local school group.
Boothe said green sea turtles (chelonia mydas) are seen
off of the Oregon coast and as far north as southern Alaska, however,
it is usually in the summer months when the water is a bit warmer.
The species lives about 80 years.
Green sea turtles will migrate extremely long distances
between feeding grounds and beaches where they hatched. They are often
born on islands that are called “turtle islands” because of
the large populations nesting there. These are found all over the world.
Females will dig holes in the sand at night after
entrenching themselves in a spot on the beach. There they lay the eggs,
and the hatchlings then head straight to the sea.
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