Tuesday, April 13, 2021
April 13, 2021

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Endangered loggerhead turtle recovering after stranding on Oregon beach

The Columbian
Published:

A young endangered loggerhead turtle is recovering after it was found, stunned by cold ocean waters, on the Oregon Coast earlier this month.

A beachgoer found the turtle, a sub-adult female, on Nelscott Beach near Lincoln City on Feb. 7, according to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Officials with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network sent a volunteer to keep watch over the creature so it could be picked up and brought to the aquarium in Newport.

Loggerheads are rare but not unheard of in Oregon’s ocean waters. The population inhabiting the waters of the northern Pacific is protected under the Endangered Species Act and has declined by 50 percent to 90 percent over the last 60 years, according to federal data, though the population has stabilized somewhat more recently.

The large turtles are generally unsuited for the frigid winter waves off the Oregon coast, however, and can lose the ability to eat and swim when stunned by cold water.

Experts at the aquarium learned the turtle’s temperature was dangerously low — a typical temp is around 75 degrees, this one was down near 50.

Rehabilitating a cold-stunned turtle is not a quick endeavor. The aquarium’s veterinarian staff began a series of increasingly warm baths for the turtle, with the goal of raising its temperature by about 5 degrees per day.

The turtle soon began showing signs of stability, according to the aquarium, swimming, diving and foraging for food. About a week after it was discovered on the beach, the turtle had its first meal: a salmon filet.

The aquarium wasn’t equipped to care for the animal long-term and, with the animal showing good signs of progress, the vet staff made arrangements with a nonprofit called Turtles Fly Too to have the creature flown to the San Diego Zoo on Saturday.

“I just received a video from SeaWorld San Diego,” the aquarium’s curator of fish and invertebrates, Evonne Mochon-Collura, said soon after the turtle’s arrival in California. “The loggerhead is swimming in their large outdoor pool — a successful triage and transport!”

Vets at the zoo will monitor the animal’s recovery with the goal of returning the turtle to the wild.

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