You’re a long way from home, little guy. An Eastern Pacific green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been found along Northern California’s San Joaquin River. This marine adventurer could be up to 3,250 kilometers (2,020 miles) from where it’s normally found off the coast of southern Mexico.
An endangered species, it's estimated that only a few thousand are left in the world. Although they primarily live in the warmer, tropical waters off the coast of central and southern Mexico, this particular turtle appears to have eschewed its normal habitat, instead journeying towards colder climes.
“When I first saw it, I thought it was a plastic bag,” said angler Dan Maloon, who filmed his discovery, as reported by CBS Sacramento. After seeing the creature, Todd Steiner, the spokesman for the Turtle Island Restoration Network based out of Marin County, confirmed its species was indeed an green sea turtle.
“This animal clearly came from the Pacific Ocean, there’s no question about that,” he said to CBS Sacramento. “Apparently went north into San Francisco Bay and now it seems to be heading directly east.”
There’s a particularly strong El Niño event happening this year, which is already bringing various aquatic animals to California’s unusually warm coast – including venomous sea snakes – so perhaps this turtle is venturing upwards for the same reason. “It may be associated with an El Niño event, but even with an El Niño event, it’s highly unusual,” Steiner commented.
Like other species of sea turtle, the herbivorous C. mydas, which can live up to 80 years in the wild, migrates across extremely long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches.
Unfortunately, the turtle may be at risk of hypothermia in the cooler waters off the California coast, so hopefully he’ll turn back and head home soon.
[H/T: CBS Sacramento]