Flying Tails: A sea turtle’s journey from Canada back home to San Diego

Flying Tails

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – In tonight’s Flying Tails segment, KRON4’s Ken Wayne has the story of a sea turtle that was found way off course and was finally returned to the warmer part of the ocean where he belongs.

But getting him there proved to be a challenge, even COVID got in the way.

A journey of more than a thousand miles and a rehab that lasted almost a year is coming to an end off the coast of San Diego.

This olive ridley sea turtle is about to be released back to its home.

“They’re like dinosaurs. They overcome so much. Six of the seven species are either threatened or endangered and they are just amazing animals,” Paige Deaton said.

The turtle was found on Vancouver Island, Canada — Far from its home territory.

Being exposed to water below 50 degrees leaves the turtle in a condition called “cold stunned.”

Its heart rate and circulation decreases, leaving it so lethargic it can’t even swim.

How this olive ridley sea turtle got here is anyone’s guess.

“It’s not unusual for a marine animal to travel so far. We’ve worked with a lot of olive ridleys that have come from Oregon, Seattle, Northern California. This is our first olive ridley that’s come from Canada,” Deaton said.

Since he was found stranded near the town of Port Alberni he was named Bernie Stranders.

Bernie was taken to the Vancouver Aquarium for rehab and was expected to be returned to Southern California last winter but then COVID happened and the border closed.

Finally, about a week ago, Bernie was able to be driven across to Seattle.

That’s where it was picked up by volunteer pilots with an organization called turtles fly too.

He was loaded up at Boeing field and took to the skies for San Diego.

Animal care specialists from Sea World took over to prepare Bernie for the last leg of his journey including prepping him for a GPS tracker to monitor his recovery.

About seven miles off Point Loma, at long last, Bernie Stranders was stranded no more.

He was returned home to the warm 74 degree Southern California water.

“This is definitely a wow factor. We get to take this animal and put it back in the ocean and hopefully, it will swim thousands of miles and make more olive ridley sea turtle babies,” Deaton said.

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