When a sea turtle is found on the beach, or in the water, dead, sick or injured, it is considered a stranded animal. When someone observes a sea turtle in this condition, the Collier County Sea Turtle Protection Program should be notified at (239) 289-9687. The Florida Marine Patrol should also be notified at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). Please be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the exact location of the animal?
- Is the turtle alive or dead?
- What is the approximate size of the animal?
- Is the turtle marked with spray paint?
The answers will give us the information we need to respond quickly with the correct equipment to handle the animal. An animal with spray paint indicates the turtle has already been documented.
If you find a sea turtle floating in the water get a GPS reading and call Florida Marine Patrol at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).
Injured or Sick Turtles
If an injured or sick turtle is found we will immediately transport the animal to an area rehabilitation center. The animal will be treated as needed for the condition it is in. After the animal becomes healthy we will release the turtle back into the area from which it was rescued.
This Kemp’s Ridley turtle was found in Caxambas Pass (Marco Island) swimming in circles at the water’s surface. Several boaters rescued the animal and Sea Turtle Protection Program staff transported the animal to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Showing signs of the effects of red-tide, the animal was placed in freshly filtered sea water. Soon after the rescue, the turtle was ready to be released back to the wild.
Unfortunately, the majority of our stranded animals are dead and have washed onto the beach. In this case we determine if the carcass if fresh enough to analyze in detail. We keep all Kemp’s Ridley turtles and any freshly dead carcasses so that gross necropsies can be performed.
In cases that we do not need to save the carcass, we fill out the official Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network data sheet. On this sheet we write the species, location, size and any anomalies found. The front flippers are analyzed for tags or tag scars.
Information From A Stranding
The stranding data sheet provides a detailed documentation which lists the following information:
- Name, address and phone number of the person responding to the stranding.
- The date, general location and latitude/longitude of the animal.
- The species, size, sex (if able to determine) and general condition.
- If the animal has a live tag or a metal tag.
- The final disposition is listed: buried on beach, taken for necropsy or taken to a nearby rehabilitation facility.
- Anomalies that may be noted include: presence of tar or oil, propeller damage, wounds or mutilations, fishing gear or debris, plastics and presence of tumors.
If a stranded turtle is salvaged, the carcass is frozen until a gross necropsy is performed. A necropsy is when biologists cut into the animal to analyze a variety of organs and tissues. Necropsies can give us even more information including:
- Presence of a foreign object blocking the airway to the lungs (suggesting the turtle may have suffocated).
- Presence or absence of food in the gastro-intestinal tract. Absence may suggest the animal was sick.
- Infections in the lungs, liver, kidney, spleen or other tissue may offer suggestions for the cause of death.
- Tissue samples can be collected to test for toxins and lethal bacteria.
A stranded animal on the beach can give us valuable information but many times a cause of death can not be determined. We can analyze the animal and determine things that probably did not cause the death, but it is very difficult to confirm a specific cause of death.
The information we received from stranded animals help National Marine Fisheries Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission monitor and document factors associated with sea turtle mortality.
Back to top
Historical Stranding Data
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
Back to top
Content updated Date Monday, May 04, 2015