Riverhead Foundation responds to giant turtle found on Shelter Island

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO | Two members of the New York State Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue program examining a dead leatherback sea turtle at Miss Annie’s Creek in Mashomack.

A dead leatherback sea turtle washed up on a beach at Miss Annie’s Creek in the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island over the weekend.

Spotted by paddle boarder Richard Ruscica and hikers along the Green Trail on Saturday afternoon, Preserve Director Mike Laspia was contacted.

Mr. Laspia secured the turtle by rope to prevent it from washing back into the creek and contacted the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue program at the Riverhead Foundation in Riverhead. An animal autopsy is scheduled for today to pinpoint the cause of death.

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles in the world, measuring up to seven feet and weighing up to 1,500 pounds. They can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Although they feed in cool waters, they breed and lay eggs in the tropics.

Their primary diet consists of jellyfish, but almost a third of all leatherbacks have evidence of plastic bags in their stomachs and intestines.