ASSATEAGUE ISLAND, Md. (WJZ) — A rare discovery on Assateague Island, when an endangered sea turtle washes ashore.

Jessica Kartalija reports, with more boaters in the water, sea turtles are at greater risk of being injured or killed.

On Assateague Island, when a sea turtle makes its way to the shore, it’s usually not a good thing.

“It kept drifting and drifting and drifting in and it washed up and we walked up to see what it was and it was a sea turtle. And this thing was big, it weighed probably at least 300-400 pounds and was probably four-feet-long,” said Frank Becker.

Spending the day with family on the island, Becker snapped photos of a loggerhead turtle whose shell had been smashed.

“Sea turtles can become victims of boat strike injuries, whether they’re alive. And they can also become victims of boat strike injuries after an animal has expired,” said Jennifer Dittmar, Animal Rescue.

In the past ten years, there have only been three loggerhead turtle nests on Assateague. One was discovered in November and brought to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

For Becker, seeing a loggerhead like this was very sad.

“Something you don’t see every day except in the aquarium. And it was a shame for it because it was obviously a beautiful creature at one point,” he said.

It may be possible to find out exactly what happened.

“You can determine through tissue analysis whether an animal was still alive when it was struck by a boat or whether if it was already dead. But you would have to collect samples and process that and look at it on a molecular level,” said Dittmar.

But with more than 2,000 people visiting the island every year, it’s important to keep the wildlife safe.

Aquarium staff are urging boaters to be on the lookout for sea turtles. And if you do spot one, please call the Department of Natural Resources Police, who will help protect them.

If you catch a sea turtle while fishing, you need to call DNR police immediately for help.

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