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MERR sees rise in leatherback turtle strandings in Delaware

U.S Nat'l Park Service

More leatherback turtles have stranded in Delaware so far this summer than normally strand in a whole season, according to Delaware's Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute (MERR).

The institute’s executive director Suzanne Thurman says three of turtles -- the largest species in the world -- have been found dead on beaches in the past several weeks. Another was spotted live in the Inland Bays, where Thurman says she's never seen a leatherback before.


"The turtles will start showing up in our waters typically in May. I'm not surprised to see them, I'm just noting that -- for the past few years we've had one to two leatherback turtle strandings. And now, this year already, we've had three strandings and a sighting," Thurman said.

Thurman adds they usually see strandings in the fall rather than the summer.


At up to 2,000 pounds in weight, leatherbacks are the largest turtle species on the planet.


Thurman says they most often strand after being fatally injured by a boat or a dredge.

"They tend to sleep on the surface of the water. So they're just sort of logging there on the surface, the boaters don't see them, and the turtles don't seem to wake up as the boats approach, and that's when they get hit by the propellers," said Thurman.


Thurman says she plans to ask her counterparts in the region if they've seen an uptick in leatherback strandings, too. The turtles are also common to the Chesapeake Bay.