From Seaside Aquarium
What: Sea Turtle Season (Be on the lookout for cold-stunned sea turtles on the beach)
Where: Oregon and Washington coasts
An Olive Ridley sea turtle was found near the Peter Iredale in Fort Steven’s State Park located in Hammond, Oregon, this week. The turtle was still alive when recovered by Seaside Aquarium but died shortly after being transferred to the Seattle Aquarium for possible rehab. This is the third sea turtle to come ashore in Oregon in the last couple weeks. (See next story from the Oregon Coast Aquarium for information about the other turtle strandings and rehab.)
Essentially, sea turtles forage for food in an offshore, warm water current. Weather conditions (such as a long, constant string of south-southwesterly winds) can drive the warm water current (and therefore the turtles) further north and closer to shore than normal. When the weather conditions suddenly change, the warm waters quickly dissipate and the turtles find themselves trapped in the colder waters of the natural currents running along the Oregon and Washington Coasts. When this happens, their bodies slow down and they become hypothermic. Those that can make it to shore ‘haul’ out to get out of the cold water, but the winter conditions on the beach are rarely more hospitable.
When found on the beach, it can be difficult to determine if a sea turtle is dead or alive. A turtle suffering from extreme hypothermia can be unresponsive to touch and have a heartbeat so slow and weak that it is difficult to detect. Most sea turtles found on Oregon and Washington shores do not survive, even if found and recovered quickly. Those that do live are taken to one of two licensed rehab facilities on the Northwest Coast; the Oregon Coast Aquarium or the Seattle Aquarium. When stabilized (which, if successful, can take up to a few weeks), the turtle is transferred to a center in California, where it will be released back into the wild.
If you come across a sea turtle on the beach please notify Oregon State Police, Washington State Police, or your local marine mammal stranding network. If you find a sea turtle on the beach, immediately note its location, remain nearby to observe it, 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.