Sea turtle found dead on Oregon Coast last week: What should you do if you find one alive?

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of two sites in the Pacific Northwest, along with the Seattle Aquarium, authorized to rehabilitate sea turtles found washed up on our coast. (Oregon Coast Aquarium)

NEWPORT, Ore. - A sea turtle found dead on an Oregon beach last week serves as a reminder that the large reptiles sometimes show up on Northwest shores - and that they don't belong here.

"If you find a sea turtle on the beach this winter, immediately note its location, remain nearby to observe it if possible, 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," the Oregon Coast Aquarium said in a public appeal for help this week.

The turtle found last week is the first this season.

If a turtle is found alive, efforts are made to rehabilitate the endangered reptiles.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of two sites in the Pacific Northwest, along with the Seattle Aquarium, authorized to do so.

"The return of reproductively viable sea turtles back into wild endangered breeding populations can be critical for species recovery," according to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Last winter, three sea turtles washed up on the Oregon Coast. The first was found on Thanksgiving. None of the three survived.

In the winter of 2015-2016, a record 10 sea turtles were found stranded on Northwest beaches.

The animals normally live in warmer waters off southern California and Mexico.

But winter storms and warmer-than-normal pockets of ocean waters can lead the turtles astray.

“Sea turtles that are near our shoreline this time of year have become enveloped by colder water as the warmer summer currents dissipate and winter sets in here in the Northeastern Pacific,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. “This environmental change slows the turtles down, which decreases their ability to migrate south, feed and maintain homeostasis. This can lead to dehydration, malnutrition and hypothermia as the animal physiologically shuts down. They then often become victim to the currents and waves, which can bring them crashing onto our beaches.”

That is where beachcombers come in.

If you come across a turtle - Pacific green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are the most common - here's what the aquarium says you should do:

1. Don't touch the turtle.

2. Note the location.

3. Remain nearby to observe, if possible.

4. 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.

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