Dead sea turtles found on South Mississippi beaches

Dead sea turtles found on South Mississippi beaches
If you spot a dead sea turtle, call or text the MS Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (228) 369-4796. (Photo Source: WLOX)
If you spot a dead sea turtle, call or text the MS Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (228) 369-4796. (Photo Source: WLOX)

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Three dead Kemp's Ridley sea turtles were found on South Mississippi beaches over the weekend.

"Normally if an animal beaches, there's something wrong with it," said Dr. Melissa Cook with NOAA Fisheries. She is the coordinator for the Mississippi chapter of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

The turtles were found in Biloxi, Gulfport and along the Gulfport/Long Beach line.

"What we encounter mostly in Mississippi are small Kemp's Ridley sea turtles that strand. We also have loggerheads and green turtles that occasionally strand," Dr. Cook added.

She said turtles can strand for a number of reasons, from boating and fishing accidents to illness.

"So if an animal dies offshore or even in the sound, those winds will carry the carcass to the beaches," said Dr. Cook.

Spring is a hotbed for sea turtle strandings because of the cooler temperatures and high winds. The cool and windy weather allows for dead animals to wash ashore faster.

Three sea turtles found in one weekend isn't uncommon. Dr. Cook said April is peak time, but strandings can start as early as February. The season typically ends in November when turtles move out off shore for winter.

"We compare strandings on an annual basis so we won't know until early 2019 how we compared to past years," Dr. Cook said.

Officials say about half of sea turtle strandings are reported. Yearly, the final number for Mississippi varies from just under 70 to more than 200.

The turtles found this weekend will be taken for necropsies, which are animal autopsies. Right now, it's hard to say whether they died from injury or illness.

If you're out boating and spot a sea turtle, slow down. Officials say turtles can hear you coming so they'll most likely dip down while you pass. If you spot a dead one, call or text the Mississippi Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (228) 369-4796.

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