Near-death sea turtle recovering at Seattle Aquarium

KING 5's Alison Morrow reports.

As colder temperatures settle in, wildlife is also starting to notice. The Seattle Aquarium is treating a sea turtle that nearly died because of it.

"Coral" was stranded on the Oregon coast a couple of weeks ago. SR3 transported her to Seattle. She is swimming on her own now, but not long ago she could barely breathe without help.

On Thursday, staff performed a health exam to check her progress.

"It's typical of cold strands to have a fair amount of damage to their skin and their shells," explained senior veterinarian Dr. Caitlin Hadfield.

Coral has battled problems with her lungs, so the exam used ultrasound to see how she's doing.

"Right now that's a really nice breath she's taking. She's lifting up her head and breathing well. She's nice and clear," Dr. Hadfield said. "She doesn't have a lot of fluid in there. Her GI tract is moving nicely, which we already knew. Everything looks pretty good, actually."

Coral's arrival marks the beginning of what's often called "stranding season," though the turtle is a little early.  As ocean temperatures get colder, turtles can get disoriented and hypothermic.

Coral is a young but mature female. That's why returning her to the wild is so important. It will give her a chance to reproduce and help her own species recover.

"Sea turtles are a protected species. They're very important for ocean health. It's very important that when we can help, we do help," Dr. Hadfield said.

If you come across a sea turtle, experts say it's important not to touch them or get too close. Take a picture and call local authorities. In Oregon, the Oregon State Police Wildlife Division can be reached at 1-800-452-7888 or the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.  In Washington, call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.

You can also visit the USFWS Pacific Region sea turtles Q&A page.

© 2017 KING-TV


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