Two warm-water sea turtles that washed ashore on the Oregon coast Monday December 17th have arrived for care at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The first was found in Seaside and the second washed ashore in Gearhart.
These southern water turtles, both females, likely rode inside a finger of their native warmer waters northward, driven by strong southerly winds. As their pocket of semi-tropical waters mixed with the colder waters off Oregon, their core temperatures dropped and their bodily functions all but shut down to conserve energy. Fortunately both were beached in populated areas and were quickly spotted by beach visitors. Both turtles were transported Monday evening to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is designated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) to rehabilitate and transport sea turtles, with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat.
One is a Green Sea Turtle and the other is an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. Both species are on the endangered list and protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“Both turtles are in critical condition,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at OCA. “The Green Sea turtle has been responsive while the Olive Ridley has remained unresponsive. We are warming the air around their bodies to raise their core temperatures and administering fluids.” Burke added that the process will take several days since they can only be warmed up five degrees a day. Currently both animals have body temperatures in the low 50’s compared to their nomal 70’s.”
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is the only certified rehabilitation facility on the Oregon coast. “It is our goal to assist these animals in their rehabilitation process and to ensure we provide the best chance to release them back into the wild,” said Carrie Lewis, CEO at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
USFWS Coastal Oregon Field Office urges anyone who finds a sea turtle on the beach to contact the Oregon State Police Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-452-7888 to ensure appropriate transport and care of the animal.
A sea turtle that washed ashore on Moolack Beach north of Newport last August was nursed back to health at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It was eventually flown in a military transport plane from Newport to San Diego where its rehabilitation continued with eventual release back into the sea in much warmer waters.