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Huge dead leatherback turtle washes ashore in Orient


A more than 6-foot-long leatherback turtle washed ashore on the Long Island Sound coast of Orient this week.

The body of the turtle, an endangered species in both New York State and federally, apparently floated onto the sand Monday, according to neighbors in the Orient by the Sea development.

Debra Iannelli, who lives on Sound View Road, said a friend texted her a picture of the turtle on Wednesday, a day after the Riverhead Foundation arrived at the beach to collect muscle samples. Her husband, Peter, measured the turtle with a measuring tape on their beach, where the turtle washed up.

The couple have seen dolphins and whales before since moving to the area 20 years ago, but they’ve never seen a turtle so large, she said.

“I don’t know if I’m going to go swimming out there next year,” she said.

Leatherback turtles get their name from their tough skin and are found all over the globe, including the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. However, the species has been threatened by humans, who kill the turtles for their natural oils used for medicinal purposes and collect their eggs for food.

It’s estimated that only 115,000 adult female leatherback sea turtles remain.

For the Iannellis, the dead turtle has posed somewhat of a problem: it stinks. The smell of the rotting carcass drifted over the bluff and toward their house more than 100 feet away.

“I don’t want to hang my laundry out there,” Ms. Iannelli said.

Since the turtle is technically on Southold Town beach property, the town may be responsible for cleaning it up. Government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow was informed about the dead turtle Friday and said the town would look into what to do to remove it.

Representatives from the Riverhead Foundation couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

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Photo credit: Paul Squire