Coast Guard flies 2 rare turtles to Calif.

NEWPORT, Ore. — Two rare sea turtles stranded last fall on separate beaches in the Northwest took flight on a Coast Guard airplane bound for San Diego.

The C-130 airplane based at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sacramento flew Thursday to Newport to pick up the turtles, named Myrtle and Maude.

They were taken to Southern California to finish their recovery at the SeaWorld turtle rehabilitation center and hopefully be released back into the wild.

“They were very quiet — quiet and cooperative,” Lt. Cmdr. Wes Hester, the commander of the plane, told The Oregonian newspaper in a story published today.

During the flight, Myrtle, an olive ridley sea turtle, and Maude, a Pacific green sea turtle, were kept at temperatures in the mid-70s, with cabin pressure at sea level.

The Coast Guard crew combined the good deed with a training flight.

Cmdr. Todd Lightle said the mission gave the pilots practice getting in and out of a small airport and handling a unique loading exercise.

“It’s a convenient match up putting it all together,” he said.

The turtles received initial care at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Myrtle was found on Agate Beach in Newport, and Maude on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. Both were hypothermic and dehydrated; Maude also had a fractured right front flipper.

The animals probably had not eaten for months, said Jim Burke, director of animal husbandry at Oregon Coast Aquarium, where staff concentrated on urgent care and stabilizing the creatures.

Hydrated with dextrose, electrolytes and fluids for several weeks, the turtles were warmed in tanks of water maintained at 75 to 78 degrees. As soon as they could eat on their own, vitamins were added to their food.

Olive ridley sea turtles are listed as endangered, and green sea turtles are threatened in Oregon. Both species prefer warmer southern waters but occasionally venture north.

Burke attributes the turtles’ stranding to this winter’s warm El Nino weather pattern. He said the animals could have found themselves in warm water pockets surrounded by cold water. When the warm water dissipated, they likely became hypothermic and fell into a hibernation-like state.

The turtles are believed to be juveniles younger than 10 years old. If they survive, they could live to be 100, Burke said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We feel like we’ve been able to make a difference.”

Information from: The Oregonian,

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