rare, so experts are both puzzled and concerned that three such turtles have
washed ashore in the last two weeks on Vancouver Island.
Two of the hard-shelled turtles have died, while the third green sea turtle
found on Wednesday is being warmed slowly at Vancouver's Aquarium but chances that it will survive are slim.
The green sea turtles, which are listed as a threatened species by the
International Union for Conservation of Nature, were found hundreds of
kilometres from their usual warm-water homes further south in the Pacific.
Lisa Spaven, a marine mammal biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said Sunday that this species of turtle has been known to forage in B.C. waters during warmer late summer months. She thinks the turtles may have been stranded when the water temperature dipped dramatically.
is much colder than 14 Celsius and their bodies start to shut down into what's
called a cold-stunned state."
That state puts the turtles in a coma-like condition, she said, leaving them
to drift for weeks or even months.
A cold-stunned state lowers the turtles metabolism and heart rate and shuts
down body parts.
"That's why it's so hard to tell if these turtles are alive or dead when they
wash on to shore," she said.
"It's why we take the time and energy to warm them very slowly, one or two
degrees a day, over the course of a couple of days to see if they rebound back
Spaven has little hope the remaining turtle will survive, saying it was in
very poor condition when it was taken to the aquarium.
All three turtles washed up at Pacific Rim National Park, an obvious spot for
such strandings, both because of the topography of the coast and because it's
open to the ocean, Spaven said.
And while it's late in the season, Spaven said it's possible more turtles
could be stranded along the coast. She is urging anyone who might spot one to
call 1-800-465-4336, even if they believe the turtle is dead.
The green sea turtles, which are named so because of the colour of their
skin, can grow to over 300 kilograms and 1.5 metres in length.
The turtles that washed up on B.C.'s shore were much smaller and are
The adult green turtles are herbivores and eat grasses and algae, although
juvenile green turtles will eat crabs, jellyfish and sea sponges