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Green Sea Turtle Stranded on N. Oregon Coast's Manzanita, Its 'Lively' State is Hopeful

Published 1/07/24 at 6:25 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Green Sea Turtle Stranded on N. Oregon Coast's Manzanita, but Its 'Lively' State is Hopeful

(Manzanita, Oregon) – 'Tis the season for their strandings – and indeed a cold-stunned sea turtle wound up stuck on a north Oregon coast beach this weekend. These don't usually end well, but this time rescuers have hopes for this one. (Photos Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium)

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Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said staff were alerted to a stranding at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, with a female green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) on the beach at Manzanita. Right off the bat they could tell it was not lethargic as they normally are when washing up on the Oregon coast – which is a good sign.

“The turtle was very lively and was identified as a green sea turtle,” Boothe said. “The 22-pound female was taken to the Seaside Aquarium before being transferred to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. There it will begin its rehabilitation. While we are optimistic about its recovery the turtle still has a very long road ahead of her.”

Cold-stunned sea turtles on the northwest coastline often appear dead, but they have a way of slowing their metabolism down so far it's difficult to tell. Even in those grave conditions, some sea turtles survive this. Most don't, however.

“A turtle suffering from extreme hypothermia can be unresponsive to touch and have a heartbeat so slow and weak that it is difficult to detect,” Boothe said. “Most sea turtles found on Oregon and Washington shores do not survive, even if found and recovered quickly. Those that do live are taken to one of two licensed rehab facilities on the Northwest Coast; the Oregon Coast Aquarium or the Seattle Aquarium.”

Once they're stabilized, Boothe said, the turtle will wind up in a rehabilitation center in California for eventual release into the wild. However, recovery – if it happens – can take a few weeks.

Aquarium staff were able to make it down to Manzanita in around a half hour after the call. At 30 miles away or so, that was a good record, Boothe said, and possibly increased the turtle's survival chances.

“Green sea turtles can weigh up to 350 pounds and can live for over 70 years,” Boothe said.

How does this happen?

Boothe said it has to do with their migration and eating habits, where they start following warm currents northward.

“Weather conditions (such as a long, constant string of south-southwesterly winds) can drive the warm water current (and therefore the turtles) further north and closer to shore than normal,” Boothe said. “When the weather conditions suddenly change, the warm waters quickly dissipate and the turtles find themselves trapped in the colder waters of the natural currents running along the Oregon and Washington coasts.”

By the time they haul out of the cold water, their systems find Washington and Oregon beaches inhospitable.

You should call authorities immediately if you see a stranded sea turtle. Local police or Oregon State Police are the best option, but not 911. If you're on the north Oregon coast or south Washington coast, getting hold of Seaside Aquarium at 503-738-6211 is the best option, if spotted during businesses hours.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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