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More than we expected…

After several days of cold, wet weather, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine by enjoying a walk on the beach. I had taken a walk in the morning and came home with some nice shells that the storm had washed up, so we ventured down the road to see what else we could find.

DSC_0694We found some nice shells, but we also found some critters that didn’t make it. We came upon two sunfish that had been washed up, a couple of jellyfish, a pelican and most surprising, a Leatherback sea turtle. We thought her dead at first, her eyes already destroyed by the birds, but after looking her over a bit, we realized that she was in fact still alive.

DSC_0711She was just barely hanging on and we didn’t figure there was anything we could do for her, so we finished our walk back and then stopped into the Pea Island Visitor’s Center to tell them about the turtle. They were immediately concerned and calls were made to go check on her and see what, if anything, could be done. We went back to where she was on the beach and waited for the experts to arrive.

DSC_0722The aquarium crew arrived first, followed by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. After a very thorough examination, it was determined that the best thing for the turtle was to put her to sleep, she was just too far gone to save. They drew blood for testing, measured her, took pictures and documented the entire process.

DSC_0736Before the aquarium crew arrived, they had been a little way down the beach picking up a dolphin. The common dolphin had washed ashore and had to be put to sleep also. Common dolphins are deep water dolphins, so they will be performing a necropsy to see if they can’t find out what brought the dolphin close enough to be washed ashore.

DSC_0732Once the Leatherback turtle was euthanized, everyone had to work together in order to get her loaded into the back of the truck. They estimated that this turtle, who was about six feet long, weighed somewhere between 600-700 pounds.

DSC_0787Being in the presence of so many experts, we learned a lot about these amazing turtles. Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on earth and they are on the endangered list. Their shells are flexible and almost rubbery because they are deep divers, diving deeper than any other turtles. Jellyfish are their favorite food, but unfortunately they often mistake floating plastic as their favorite snack. This often turns deadly for the turtles. They are not often found near shores, so a necropsy will be performed on her to see if they can determine what caused her to be there.

DSC_0790I just wish things had turned out better for this beautiful giant. I am glad we stumbled upon her when we did, though, and that we were able to watch as she was taken care of. This was a once in a lifetime learning experience, and it won’t be forgotten anytime soon…

Update:Β The necropsy was performed on the leatherback today, February 1. They found a blockage formed by a wad of plastic bags.

13 thoughts on “More than we expected…

  1. Your nature classes are stunning and go far beyond anything thatis learned in a classroom in a school. The more I hear and read , the more I know that you and Rob made the right decision. I would love to have had a childhood like that….actually seeing things not just looking at pictures in a book.
    my love to you all, safe driving

  2. Great learning experience. It’s good to know what our National Park and Fish & Wildlife services actually do, too. Don’t leatherbacks just keep moving forward, like torpedoes?

  3. Thank you for taking the time to photograph and write so beautifully. we are transported to the beach with you because of the genuine talent that you have been given.

  4. Thats really sad but glad that you were able to help in some small way. Pollution is a horrible killer of sea creatures, we have a lot of problems with it down here in NZ as well 😦

  5. What an interesting looking turtle, much different than the Green Sea Turtle we just saw in Hawaii. Both beautiful in their own right. It’s too bad yours didn’t make it. She most likely was sick when she came ashore. Pollution is a nasty thing. We watched a video at the Whale Foundation and they spend a lot of time cutting fishing nets off of the whales’ tales. Quite the process. Whales don’t hold still for anyone! That was a great learning experience for all of you. Lucky kids to have the great outdoors as their classroom! We love you and miss you!!! πŸ™‚

  6. What a terrific life experience for you and your family – even though sadly ending for the turtle. A memorable story – I’m glad you share it in words and pictures. Coral

  7. Thank you for taking the time to contact someone about the sea turtle. If you happen to be in the area or along any of the coasts from NC to FL during the early summer months, you can contact the local sea turtle program and maybe spend some time at a nest that is ready to hatch. N.E.S.T. http://www.nestonline.org is the sea turtle organization along the northern section of the Outer Banks. Plastic bags have been banned in the larger stores along the OBX. Thanks again a N.E.S.T. Volunteer.

    I also loved reading your blog and I love that the kids are able to travel and learn about so much of the country.

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