700-Pound Leatherback Turtle Euthanized After Being Stranded on Beach

by Jon D. B.
(Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

An enormous leatherback turtle has been euthanized on the Norfolk coast after the endangered animal became stranded.

According to The Virginia Pilot, the 700-pound marine reptile became stuck on an East Beach neighborhood shore Monday morning. As locals came upon the giant turtle, many were awe-struck by its pure size and the rarity of the sighting.

Their awe quickly turns to sorrow, however, when it became increasingly clear that the leatherback turtle was in distress.

Alyssa Muhlendorf and her 10-year-old daughter, Nyla, are among the Virginia residents who saw the turtle. According to them, the turtle came ashore during a strong, rough high tide. Unable to make it back into the ocean, the turtle became desperate – thrashing until it became stuck in the sand.

Leatherback turtle sighting turns tragic: “We were awestruck”

“We both teared up when we saw her,” Muhlendorf says of the encounter. The turtle, likely a female weighing over 700 pounds, was beyond anything they typically see on their beach. “We were awestruck,” Muhlendorf adds.

Tragically, the group could see blood on the turtle’s shell, and signs of distress around her. Reportedly, the poor leatherback spent hours walking in circles trying to reach the ocean. When it finally came to water – it no longer had the life left to swim.

“Difficult decision” made to euthanize suffering giant

The Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team came in to treat the turtle. After long consultations with several experts and agencies, the team came to the “difficult decision” that euthanization would be best.

“Due to the size and natural behavior of the species and this individual turtle’s behavior, the team made the humane decision to euthanize in order to not prolong suffering.”

Natalie Sims, Virginia Aquarium spokesperson

Before the decision was made, however, team members spent the entirety of Monday attempting to rescue the enormous creature. An attempt was made Monday to release her from her suffering – but the intense high tide made this impossible.

Unfortunately, the turtle had been struggling for days. This likely resulted its injuries and lack of ability to swim. Once the turtle became stuck again Tuesday – officials took the opportunity to end her suffering, and eventual drowning in the surf.

Leatherback turtles: Fascinating relics of the past

This is the second leatherback to become stranded in Virginia this year. The turtles typically only come ashore to lay their eggs. They only surface to sand to do so, however, in far more temperate places such as the Florida and Caribbean coasts.

To learn more about the species, you can view the beautiful expose by Oceana above.

[H/T The Virginia Pilot]