The cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtle that came to the Oregon Coast Aquarium Sunday morning has unfortunately succumbed to its injuries.
The animal was found washed ashore at Crescent Beach in Ecola State Park on Saturday. Staff from Seaside Aquarium recovered the animal and assisted in transferring it to Newport Sunday morning. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium are the only rehabilitation facilities in the northwest United States authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide the specialized care sea turtles require.
Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are one of the rarer species of sea turtle to strand on Oregon beaches, said Jim Burke, the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Director of Animal Husbandry. “Most of the stranded turtles we’ve seen in recent years have been olive ridley and green sea turtles. The last loggerhead to arrive alive at the Aquarium was on Christmas Eve 2007, and it also survived only one day.” All three species are classified as endangered.
Loggerheads, like olive ridley and green sea turtles, have an extensive global range and breed in warm waters, including along the Pacific coast of Mexico. Most of the sea turtles recorded in Oregon likely originate from these coastal Mexico populations.
“We hope to learn from this loss but accept that the odds of saving stranded animals are low,” said Burke. “The turtles that strand on our shores are in a compromised state—the water temperature off Newport is in the low 50s this time of year, and these cold-blooded animals prefer water that’s at least twenty degrees warmer.”
With assistance from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Oregon Coast Aquarium plans to perform a necropsy on the animal to get an idea of whether any internal injuries played a role in its demise.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urges anyone who finds a sea turtle on the beach to immediately note its location, remain nearby to observe it if possible and contact the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) in Oregon, Washington, and California at 1-866-767-6114. The MMSN and its partner organizations, including Seaside Aquarium, have proved invaluable in reaching stranded turtles quickly and transporting them to authorized care facilities.
Information and photos by Oregon Coast Aquarium