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Endangered Sea Turtle Passed Away Because Someone Left Trash On A Beach

“This is so very sad, and so easy to stop."

Earlier this week, a young female sea turtle was found on a beach in Walton County, Florida, trapped between the rusted metal legs of a barstool.

Members of the South Walton Turtle Watch, a group that works to protect local sea turtles and nests, responded to a beachgoer’s report, but hopes of saving the turtle quickly disappeared when they realized just how long she’d been trapped in her small metal prison.

Kemp's ridley sea turtle in bar stool
South Walton Turtle Watch

It’s believed that the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, a critically endangered species, had been pulled underwater by the weight of the stool, and subsequently drowned.

“We could see no cause of death and think it was due to drowning, as it could not keep its head above the water,” Sharon Maxwell, a member of the South Walton Turtle Watch, told The Dodo.

Despite the fact that the turtle had passed quite some time ago, the members wanted to free her.

Once the turtle and the stool were separated, the stool was examined for some sign of its origin, but none were found.

A young female Kemp's ridley sea turtle
South Walton Turtle Watch

Kemp’s ridley turtles often hunt for crabs in shallow coastal areas, and due to the location of their hunting grounds, become entangled with marine debris, fishing nets and other gear.

The stool was most likely just another piece of refuse floating off the coast. And when garbage is left behind, turtles are the ones to suffer.

This is so very sad, and so easy to stop. Please do not leave your items, anything, on the beach,” South Walton Turtle Watch wrote on Facebook. “We did get this beautiful lady out of the chair. She was a critical endangered Kemp’s and of course she was dead. Look at her head to see what she went through. Poor thing, it must have been an awful death. Why can't we keep things off the beach at night?”

Earlier in the summer season, a member of the same species washed up in Fort Morgan, Alabama, tangled in a forgotten beach chair.

Sea turtle tangled in a beach chair on Alabama beach
Facebook/Fort Morgan Share the Beach

Making sure the beach is clean means more than just picking up trash, the South Walton Turtle Watch warns; it also means covering holes in the sand that were dug during the day — especially in locations where female turtles are nesting.

“In our county, we had a large nesting female loggerhead fall into a hole during the night and we had to get lots of help to get her out the next morning,” Maxwell said.

The group has also been patrolling the beaches at night to ensure that tourists don’t shine bright lights at turtles to get a better look.

“This can cause the sea turtle to go back into the water without nesting,” Maxwell explained. “And even with our [outdoor] lighting ordinances, lighting on houses is always a problem to nesting sea turtles and also their hatchlings — they go toward the lights.”

Sea turtle hatchling makes his way to the water
South Walton Turtle Watch

With only 7,000 nesting females left in the wild, a chance to breed safely could be the species' only hope of survival.

Those who live in Northwest Florida can learn how to volunteer with the South Walton Turtle Watch here.

To help protect sea turtles, you can make a donation to Sea Turtle Conservancy.