Two endangered turtles are recovering at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport after washing ashore Monday near Seaside.
The two female turtles, one an Olive Ridley sea turtle and the other a green sea turtle, are far from their warm ocean habitats. Recent storms washed them into the colder waters of the Oregon Coast and pushed them to the shore.
Both turtles were in critical condition Tuesday after suffering from low body temperatures and dehydration.
The aquarium’s Lance Beck described how warm-water turtles react to Oregon’s colder waters:
“They don’t technically hibernate, but they shut down their systems to survive, and that’s when they end up floating ashore at that point.”
The turtles were being slowly warmed and hydrated with intravenous fluids, Beck said.
Both turtles are listed as endangered by the federal government.
It’s uncommon for sea turtles from warm waters to be pushed so far north of their usual habitats.
A beachcomber pulled the green sea turtle from the surf and brought it to the Seaside Aquarium after he saw it being pummeled by logs in the water, said Tiffany Boothe with the aquarium. The turtle measures 21 inches and weighs about 25 pounds, she said.
The green sea turtle is missing a front flipper, but that wound had been healed for some time, Boothe said.
Another beachcomber looking for glass floats found the Olive Ridley sea turtle on the south end of Gearhart Beach and called the Seaside Aquarium, which is part of a network of facilities that handle stranded sea life, said Keith Chandler, the aquarium’s general manager.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle “is in very rough shape,” Chandler said. It’s body temperature was 48 degrees fahrenheit, which is more than 20 degrees lower than it should be.
Warming the turtles must be done slowly, a few degrees each day. If they are warmed too quickly they can go into shock. That’s one reason most people should not try to save stranded marine life. Instead, they should report their location to an facility that is a member of the Northwest Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Oregon and Washington have networks and Puget Sound has a separate network.
In Oregon, people may call the Oregon State Police Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-452-7888.
If the two turtles survive, they likely will be taken to SeaWorld in San Diego for more rehabilitation and possible return to the wild.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium sent another green sea turtle to SeaWorld in August. That turtle, named Koa, for the Hawaiian word for “fearless,” is expected to return to the wild in the summer of 2013, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
Correction: Dec. 19, 2012. One of the rescued turtles was incorrectly identified as a loggerhead by officials. That turtle is an Olive Ridley sea turtle.
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