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Hypothermic turtle rescued after rare foray in to cold B.C. waters

Loggerhead turtle recovering after being found in Pedder Bay only the second confirmed B.C. sighting
A loggerhead sea turtle rarely seen in British Columbia waters has been rescued after being found suffering from hypothermia near Victoria. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society says the turtle nicknamed Moira was rescued near Victoria on Feb. 4, 2024, and was hypothermic at the time of admission to the aquarium’s care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-The Vancouver Aquarium

When B.C. marine scientist Anna Hall encountered a very lost loggerhead turtle in waters near Victoria over the weekend, she knew it faced a grim fate at sea.

“The turtle would not have survived,” said Hall, principal scientist at consulting group Sea View Marine Sciences.

“Had the turtle stayed in the ocean, either it would have died due to hypothermia, or it would have been hit by a boat. It was just moving so, so slowly.”

Hall was the first marine biologist to respond Sunday after a resident near Pedder Bay between Victoria and Sooke discovered the drifting reptile while checking crab traps.

The 38-kilogram female turtle was then taken to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society, where officials said her core temperature was only 8.4 C — well below the usual level of 20-25 C.

“The water temperature at the location where the turtle was found was 10 C,” Hall said. “So the turtle was actually colder than the water temperature.”

Loggerhead sea turtles are typically seen in subtropical and temperate seas, and the rescued turtle is only the second ever seen in B.C. waters.

It is now recovering in the care of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society.

Society executive director Martin Haulena said it is likely the turtle — nicknamed Moira by the staff and estimated to be 15 to 20 years old — was caught in a warm ocean current that gradually cooled near the B.C. coast.

“She’s up to about 15 C at the moment,” Haulena said, adding the turtle’s condition is stable. “She’s certainly more responsive than she was a few days ago, but she’s still not able to swim.”

The society said the turtle was receiving fluid therapy and antibiotics to nurse it back to health as its temperature is slowly raised, and Haulena said it would take a few more days of slow warming before the animal can try swimming again.

He said the society would likely keep Moira for assessment for another six to eight weeks before likely transferring the animal to Seaworld San Diego’s staging facility before a return to the wild in August or September, when the ocean is the warmest.

Hall said the last time a loggerhead sea turtle was spotted in B.C. waters was in 2015, about 50 nautical miles west of Tofino.

It’s the second time in recent months a lost sea turtle has been rescued in chilly Canadian waters.

In November an endangered green sea turtle was found on a Nova Scotia beach, revived and shipped to warmer waters in Bermuda.

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