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Oregon Crew Tries to Rescue Sea Turtle on Washington Coast. Did Humans Interfere?

Published 11/23/21 at 5:12 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Crew Tries to Rescue Sea Turtle on Washington Coast

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(Ocean Park, Washington) – About this time of year, Oregon and Washington coast officials want you to be aware that injured sea turtles may be washing up on Pacific Northwest beaches. If you encounter one , do not touch it or attempt to help, but instead call authorities and relay the location of the stranded sea turtle. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

If you try to put it back in the ocean, you will likely kill it. (Call local or state police if you find one)

That's the situation that seems to have occurred this week on the south Washington coast, after Seaside Aquarium received a report that a turtle had stranded at Ocean Park on November 16. By the time the crew from the north Oregon coast arrived, the turtle was gone. This Sunday, it showed up again a bit farther north, but now dead.

Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said it's likely someone tried to “help” by putting it back in the water, which is the last thing a cold-stunned sea turtle needs.

“It was assumed that someone came across the turtle on the beach, thought it was dead, and picked it up,” Boothe said. “An action that is highly illegal. At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning the aquarium got another report of a stranded turtle but this time it was a bit further north in Oysterville, Washington.”

This time, aquarium responders asked the caller if they could stick around “turtle sit” until the crew could get there, and luckily they agreed.

“When staff arrived, they were surprised to see that it was the same sea turtle that had been stranded nearly a week earlier,” Boothe said. “Distinctive marks on the turtle's shell confirmed it was the same animal.”

When a cold-stunned sea turtle arrives on a beach, it can be extremely difficult to tell if it is dead or alive at first. It often takes awhile to determine what's going on.

“They can be unresponsive, and their heartbeat can slow to one beat per minute,” Boothe said. “Other than being highly illegal, it is important to never take a sea turtle off the beach. Though it might look dead, there is a chance it is still alive. In fact, when the aquarium responds to stranded sea turtles, they treat them all as if they are alive until proven otherwise and that is exactly how they treated this turtle. The fully grown, Olive Ridley sea turtle was not showing any signs of life but it wasn't until the turtle had been recovered and taken back to the Seaside Aquarium for observation that it was eventually declared dead.”

It's a sad ending, Boothe said, but it's even sadder to think someone might've caused this. If the turtle somehow swam back out in its own, that's something the aquarium has never seen before.

Boothe said this appears to be the fourth turtle found on the Oregon or Washington coast in two months, now that it's “turtle season” on these beaches.

What happens with Olive Ridley turtles and others that wash up here is that they are often migrating or following warmer currents northward when the currents suddenly enter cold water. These creatures can't cope with the cold so they became severely hypothermic, basically “stunned” by the temperature drop.

Most that strand on Oregon or Washington's coast don't survive, but a small handful do and are rehabilitated and eventually released back into their warmer, native waters.

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More Olive Ridley turtles from past Seaside Aquarium encounters below


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