07 Aug Loggerhead Killed in Core Sound Area
Loggerhead killed in Core Sound area
For more information,
Contact CCANC at 919-781-3474
A juvenile loggerhead sea turtle found July 26 on the Portsmouth flats of North Core Banks died from human inflicted blunt force trauma to the brain, concluded a post mortem report written last week by doctors at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine Center for Marine Sciences and Technology.
The sea turtle, weighing about 70 pounds and a little over two feet in length, was alive when it was found by a National Park Service ranger. After treatment by doctors at the NCSU vet school, the loggerhead was stable on July 28 and transferred to the year-old Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The following morning, however, the turtle was unresponsive. It was given pain medicine and allowed to die, according to the report.
Both state and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating the malicious death of the loggerhead since all sea turtles are on the federal and state Endangered Species lists. The crime is a felony punishable by a fine up to $100,000. The N.C. Wildlife Federation, the Coastal Conservation Association of N.C., and a private individual have donated $7,500 as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed the turtle.
Anyone having information about the identity of the person responsible for this criminal act should call the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on its toll-free hotline at 1-800-662-7137. WRC wardens and N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries patrol officers will investigate all information keeping the source strictly confidential. If the information received leads to the apprehension and prosecution of the culprit, the anonymous source will receive the reward.
“If it is true that this loggerhead turtle was killed by a human hand, we want to know who,” said Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “The reward pool will hopefully entice anyone with information to come forth. We are providing these resources to underscore the seriousness we place on killing any turtles. This blight on the entire state must be halted. This type of wanton waste will not be tolerated.”
Gestwicki said the Wildlife Federation is resolved to assist “state and federal agencies in upholding the regulations and guiding principles of fish and wildlife management.”
A copy of the post mortem report obtained by Bob Lorenz, vice-president of the Coastal Conservation Association in North Carolina, said the turtle was not euthanized immediately because it retained surprisingly good neurologic function even though the injury could have been one to three weeks old.
There was no sign of more distributed trauma that would be consistent with a boat strike, the doctors wrote. “It is difficult to devise a plausible explanation for the focus, shape and severity of the fractures other than an intentional malicious blow to the head with something like a hammer to a turtle that was not free-swimming at the time.”
Information from the veterinarians and scientists involved indicate that the sea turtle had to be restrained while in the water, likely by some sort of fishing gear, and then struck in the head with a blunt object before being left to die. “Absence of hook, line, net, net marks or line marks, do not rule out any form of capture and immobilization, because gear often does not leave visible marks on sea turtles even when they are retrieved by observers or onlookers from known gear types,” the report explained.
Speaking for CCANC, Lorenz said, “We have all seen the reports of sea turtles drowning after being caught in gill nets or even sea turtle interactions involving hook and line fishermen. Most of the general public, however, cannot begin to imagine why someone would hit a sea turtle in the head with such force as to crush its skull and then just leave it to die. We hope anyone with knowledge of this attack will contact the Wildlife Resources Commission and help see that the individual responsible for this senseless act is held accountable.”
The turtle finding comes at a time when large mesh gillnet use in many North Carolina waters, including the Core Sound area where the turtle was found, is being closed until September 1 or perhaps later due to interactions with sea turtles that become entangled and usually drown, Lorenz said. “North Carolina is the only southern state that allows large mesh monofilament gillnets in estuarine waters where sea turtles roam.”