A nesting sea turtle was discovered dead on the shore of Miami Beach Monday morning and the cause of her death is a mystery.
From afar the 300-pound reptile appeared normal as it lay on the sand, but a closer look revealed waves crashing on a dead turtle.
Officials are trying to figure out circumstances surrounding the tragedy, but tire tracks leading to her carcass are a strong indication that she was run over by a vehicle. NBC 6 exclusively obtained photos of the lifeless turtle.
Sea Turtle Found Dead on Miami Beach
Teal Kawana is Project Manager for Miami-Dade County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program. She accessed the scene on the sand near 10th and Ocean Drive.
“It's very hard to say because we did not notice any serious injuries in the turtle. That's actually why it has to be necropsied because we don't know exactly what happened,” Kawana explained.
A nesting site near the carcass appeared to have been run over also.
“Over two of the nests that had been laid in this area were ATV tracks that we think were from the night before. That actually went through the nest,” Kawana said.
There were also boot prints in the same spot. Fortunately, the egg chambers were not destroyed. The mother turtle, which may have been 20-30 years old, suffered minor injuries including a cracked shell and contusions to her neck. A necropsy was being performed to determine the cause of death.
“We are trying to protect this species and we want everyone to practice the best management practice,” said Kawana. “It's really important that we help conserve this species they do serve important roles for the ecosystems that they inhabit in the ocean.”
Sea turtles are considered endangered and they share the beach with us during nesting season which began May 1st. Miami-Dade County has close to 300 sites marked on the beach where turtles will hatch to protect them.
Driving is prohibited on the beach. Only emergency vehicles and licensed vendors are allowed.