Green sea turtle washes up on the Oregon Coast

NEWPORT, Ore. - Aquarium workers are trying to save the life of a Green sea turtle found on the Oregon Coast last week.

"We don't know how sick he is," said Jim Burke, director of animal husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. "We're waiting for him to warm up and take food. We can't do x-rays, it doesn't penetrate the shell, but it would be great to have access to a CT scan."

Burke said no major breakage was found and he doesn't seem as severely compromised as past turtles. "But we are not out of the woods yet," he said.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is rehabilitating the stranded sea turtle found on Moolack Beach in Newport last Monday night. Jim Rice, Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network coordinator, responded and transported the animal to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for urgent care.

Green sea turtles are not typical but not unheard of in the Pacific Ocean off Oregon.

"The green turtle is globally distributed and generally found in tropical and subtropical waters along continental coasts and islands between 30 North and 30 South," according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Along the North American Pacific coast, "green turtles have been sighted from Baja California to southern Alaska, but most commonly occur from San Diego south."

Burke said the turtle's normal temperature is close to that of its natural habitat, about 72-82 degrees, and this turtle was found at 58 degrees.

"The turtle may have found itself in a warm water pocket, surrounded by cold water," Burke said. "Once the warm water dissipates, they become hypothermic and go into a hibernation-like state, called brumation, and they can no longer navigate or survive."

Burke said reptiles can slow their metabolism, which allows a window of time when they can be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released.

Aquarium husbandry staff is working closely with veterinarians to improve its health enough to transport it to a warm water sea turtle rehabilitation facility. From there, the goal is to release it back into its natural habitat.

The Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), is a large sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. Their common name derives from the green fat underneath their shell. All sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act.