NEWPORT — A sea turtle that washed onto a Lincoln City, Ore., beach on Monday is being treated at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
The female olive ridley turtle has been named Furlough by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff that transported her to the Aquarium on Monday afternoon. The Aquarium is licensed by USFWS to rehabilitate and transport sea turtles, with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitat.
“The turtle is currently responsive, but her initial blood work shows her health is severely compromised. She came here hypothermic, dehydrated, anemic and battered by the surf.” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at the Aquarium. When the turtle arrived at the Aquarium thermometer readings indicated her core body temperature was just 59 degrees, it should be in the 70s.
The Aquarium’s staff immediately administered fluids to the 33 pound turtle and worked through the night to warm the air around her to slowly raise her core body temperature. This process will take several days as the turtle can only be warmed up around five-degrees each day to prevent shock. She is currently covered with a coat of water based lubricant and towels help lock in moisture to prevent further dehydration and loss of warmth.
“We are treating her with a turtle’s version of bed rest. She is here to hang out, relax and pack on calories,” explained Evonne Mochon-Collura, a Senior Aquarist at the Aquarium.
The turtle’s prognosis is poor, but a glance at her scarred and chipped shell indicates this is not the first time she has overcome health issues.
Once her body temperature is warm enough for her to be in water, Aquarium veterinarians and staff will be able to better assess her overall body condition and health, which is partially obscured by turtles’ protective shells.
Olive ridley turtles, Lepidochelys olivacea, are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and are typically found in tropical waters around the globe. The species is highly migratory, breeding and nesting in coastal areas and foraging as far as 2400 miles from shore.
When a turtle washes ashore it falls under the USFWS’s jurisdiction. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is the only certified rehabilitation facility on the Oregon coast. “Our goal is to assist these animals through the rehabilitation process and ensure we provide them the best chance for release back to 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 800-452-7888 to ensure appropriate transport and care of the animal.