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Stranded Sea Turtle Dies In Spite of Rescue - N. Oregon Coast, Rockaway Beach

Published 01/25/2019 at 6:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Stranded Sea Turtle Dies In Spite of Rescue - N. Oregon Coast, Rockaway Beach

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(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – Seaside Aquarium crews were called to help rescue a stranded sea turtle in Rockaway Beach on Thursday morning, but Friday the sad news came the turtle did not make it. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Strandings of these creatures become more regular this time of year on the Oregon coast.

“At 9 am, we received a call of a sea turtle found at Rockaway Beach,” said the aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe. “The turtle is a male Olive Ridley sea turtle that was barely moving due to the cold. Staff at the Seaside Aquarium were able to get it off the beach to begin warming it up.”

Only two places in the region can deal with the rehabilitation of rescued sea creatures: Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and Seattle Aquarium. This one was sent to Seattle for help, and Seaside staff were hopeful for its survival and eventual release back into the wild.

Then the aquarium found out the news today, the morning after the rescue.

“Unfortunately, despite everyone's best efforts the sea turtle did not make it,” Boothe said. “We would like to take the time to thank everyone for their well wishes and a special thanks to both the Seattle Aquarium and the Oregon Coast Aquarium for all of their hard work and efforts in rehabbing sea turtles found on Oregon and Washington beaches. Another thank you to Don Best for his quick reporting of the stranded turtle.”

The Olive Ridley sea turtle – known as Lepidochelys olivacea – is named for the green color of its shell, which is heart-shaped. It is one of the smallest species of sea turtle.

Experts say ocean conditions are causing these creatures to strand because of currents that trap them in the wrong temperature. The turtles may be following warm water, but those currents are surrounded by cold water.

According to Jim Burke of Oregon Coast Aquarium, this puts them in a difficult situation.

“Once the warm water dissipates, they become hypothermic and go into a hibernation-like state, called brumation, and they can no longer navigate or survive,” Burke said.

Burke said reptiles can slow their metabolism, which allows a window of time when they can be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released.

“Strong south, southwesterly winds drive warm currents further north; sea turtles often follow these warm water currents and when they dissipate the sea turtle finds itself in water that is too cold for them,” Boothe said. “They get hypothermic and end up on the beach. The quicker these turtles are found and taken off the beach the better their chances are. In the next few weeks, people walking the beaches of the Oregon and Washington coast should keep a look out for these guys.”

All species of sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

These turtles’ natural habitat has a temperature of about 70-85 degrees, but these poor critters wound up in water that was less than 50 degrees.

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Other Olive Ridley rescues from the past, courtesy Seaside Aquarium




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