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Home > Atlantic Sea Turtles > Field Reports > Sea Turtle Necropsy

Sea Turtle Necropsy

by Jackie Orsulak
February 5, 2004

Page 1 : Working With Stranded Turtles

Even in the winter, the NEST volunteers are working and training to save the sea turtles. Wendy Cluse and Matthew Godfrey, the assistant coordinator and coordinator of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and Larisa Avens, a researcher for the National Marine Fisheries Service, brought four dead sea turtles to the Corolla Fire House to provide a stranding and necropsy workshop for the NEST volunteers. Along with the 20 volunteers attending, they first reviewed stranding procedures. They reminded us that there are five species of sea turtles that inhabit the waters of North Carolina. Loggerhead, green, Kempís ridley, and leatherback turtles frequently (and, rarely, hawksbill) wash up on our beaches sick, injured or dead. We are responsible for reporting these stranded turtles to the sea turtle researchers. Hopefully, after completion of this workshop our sea turtle stranding reports will be much more complete, accurate and informative.

Turtle Tags
Many live turtles that have been seen on land (nesting females, hatchlings or stranded turtles), as well as turtles that are captured in-water, are tagged before they return to the sea. It is important for researchers that we obtain any tag information from the stranded turtles. There are four types of tags. The most common is the metal flipper tag that is clipped to a flipper (usually a rear flipper). It gives the identification number of the turtle and the address of those who would like to be notified if the turtle is found.

Some turtles are tagged with a PIT tag. This is a small tag that is inserted into the muscle of the turtle. (see Preparing For a Turtle Release for more information on tagging). These tags can only be detected with a special scanner. The North Carolina Wildlife Commission has supplied NEST volunteers with scanners to detect these tags.

Some research projects on Kempís ridleys use coded wire tags to identify their turtles; these tags are placed underneath the skin of the front flipper. We cannot detect these tags because the device to detect these is very expensive. Sometimes the turtles are identified with living tags, which are similar to skin grafts, where a small piece of the turtleís plastron is switched with a piece of its carapace. If we find one of these we are to call the wildlife experts immediately.

Next Page : Beginning the Necropsy
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