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Experts Warn: Do Not Pick Up Stranded Turtles on Oregon Coast

Published 11/30/2016 at 6:03 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Experts Warn: Do Not Pick Up Stranded Turtles on Oregon Coast

(Seaside, Oregon) – Like baby seals or seals that are molting, sea turtles are also to be left alone if they are found on Oregon coast beaches. Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said it is that time of year again when hypothermic and stunned sea turtles may start showing up on these beaches – and it is imperative you report it and not pick up the creature. (All sea turtle photographs courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

You could face charges if you do.

If you find a sea turtle on the beach, you should contact the Oregon State Police, or on the north coast you can contact the Seaside Aquarium at 503-738-6211.

“We had our first turtle come in on November 26,” Boothe said. “However by the time we got to the animal someone had already picked it up. Not only is this illegal but sea turtles that are cold-stunned may appear to be dead, but often times are not. A sea turtle's heartbeat can slow to one beat per minute when hypodermic.”

Boothe said it is very important that officials can pick up the sea turtle as soon as possible and get it off the beach to be cared for. Last year, the aquarium responded to five stranded sea turtles.

The reason this happens is that strong, south and southwesterly winds drive warm currents further north. Sea turtles often follow these warm water currents, and then those currents dissipate, leaving the turtle in waters colder than they can survive.

“They get hypothermic and end up on the beach,” Boothe said. “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.”

About half the turtles rescued off Oregon coast beaches manage to live through this. If the Seaside Aquarium is dispatched to pick up one on the north coast, they immediately do a number of things to begin the rehabilitation process – but usually it's a form of resuscitation at first.

This includes pumping warm fluids into the turtle and trying to bring up its core temperature. If that is successful, the turtle can be transported down to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport for further, more intensive rehabilitation. After that, the goal is to get them back into the wild. Surviving turtles are sent down to California, where the ocean temperatures are more like their natural habitat. Numerous turtles have made their way to Sea World in San Diego to be rehabilitated and then released.

Seaside Aquarium manager Keith Chandler said turtles found on these beaches usually have hypothermia and they are not very active. Once they're stranded, the usually-cold conditions of Oregon's coastal winds can bring their temperatures down further.

Olive Ridelys are somewhat rare finds on the Northwest coast and almost always show up deceased when they land on these beaches. Chandler said they show up maybe every few years, but when they do, often more than one is discovered.

At times, it is loggerhead turtles that wind up stranding on this shoreline. Two were found in the north Oregon coast in 2012. In 2009, the Aquarium answered the call to an even rarer turtle: a green sea turtle as well as an Olive Ridley turtle. The last Loggerhead the aquarium dealt before that was in 2007. Oregon Coast Hotels in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours







 

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