Solstice the turtle receives fluids at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. (photo by Oregon Coast Aquarium)
Solstice, a distressed sea turtle that was rescued and then successfully treated by the Oregon Coast Aquarium and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is heading back to warmer waters. Swimming is a turtle’s regular mode of transportation, but swimming in cold, Northwest waters is what caused trouble for Solstice in the first place. Instead, the U.S. Coast Guard stepped up and will airlift the turtle to southern California during a C-130 Hercules training mission on February 24.
The endangered olive ridley sea turtle was found comatose, hypothermic and malnourished in December. “The Oregon Coast Aquarium provided Solstice urgent care and worked for the past few months to stabilize her so that she would be healthy enough for transport to a facility closer to her natural range,” said Jim Burke, the Aquarium’s Director of Animal Husbandry. “We are glad these efforts were successful, and may have a positive impact on the future of this endangered species in the wild.”
After Solstice leaves Newport, she will complete her rehabilitation at SeaWorld San Diego in preparation for release later this summer. This turtle was saved thanks to conscientious members of the public. Because they immediately alerted authorities, Solstice was quickly transported to the Aquarium where specialized equipment and expertise provided the sea turtle critical care. At least five other sea turtles succumbed to the elements and stranded on Oregon and Washington beaches this winter. Rapid response is the only hope of returning these large endangered animals to health. Continue reading
Max the sea lion in a Santa hat
Animals at the Oregon Coast Aquarium will enjoy a very merry “fishmas” and a happy new year thanks to the thousands of members and visitors that support the highest rated aquarium in the state. How do animals at the Aquarium celebrate the holiday season? With enrichment! Enrichment is what those in the animal care industry call toys, training and other carefully orchestrated experiences for animals that provide them variation from their normal routine.
Ice treats are served up in the Seabird Aviary and marine mammal exhibits year around, but at this time of year they often arrive in holiday-themed shapes. SCUBA Santa even makes a stop in the Oregon Kelp
Forest exhibit each December as a part of the Sea of Lights celebration. One eight-foot long wolf eel follows him about the exhibit, while the rockfish, as usual, seem indifferent to the ruckus.
The Aquarium will not be open on December 25 in honor of the Christmas holiday. It is the only day each year that the attraction is closed to visitors. Santa will recuperate in Newport following the holiday, making appearances for photos with visitors and SCUBA diving during the final weekend of Sea of Lights on December 27 and 28 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission is $8, or free for members or visitors with same day paid admission. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day, except December 25, this winter from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-3474.
Information and photos provided by the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Skinny, a 39 year old harbor seal, enjoys toys, ice, jello and other enrichment items as a regular part of her routine. (courtesy photo oregon coast aquarium)
The Oregon Coast Aquarium invites visitors to gobble up special experiences in its exhibits and savings in its gift shops over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Black Friday and Saturday discounts in the gift shops include a 20 percent discount on all items on Friday, November 28 and Saturday, November 29. As always, admission to the Aquarium is not required to browse the gift shops.
Olive the turkey vulture pauses from picking on a pumpkin during an enrichment session at the Aquarium (courtesy photo Oregon Coast Aquarium)
The Aquarium’s animals will be treated to Thanksgiving themed surprises throughout the weekend. Toys like “Mr. Potato Head,” pumpkins and turkey-shaped fishy ice treats are used by animal care experts as enrichment items. Enrichment items and activities provide animals with opportunities to learn and overcome challenges, just as they would in the wild.
Visitors will be able to swim in the exhibits, smooch a sea lion or explore behind the scenes on Saturday and Sunday over the Thanksgiving weekend. Giant Pacific octopus encounters will be available on Thanksgiving and Saturday. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day this winter, except December 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visit aquarium.org or call 541-867-3474 for more information.
Divers in the Pacific Northwest faced a gruesome landscape of over the past few months. Sea stars, stricken with a wasting syndrome whose cause has puzzled scientists across the globe, were disintegrating arm by arm into pale piles of gelatinous goo.
A glimmer of hope appeared on Florence’s North Jetty this month in the form of juvenile stars. Aquarium volunteer science diver, Diane Hollingshead, co-owner of Eugene Skin Divers Supply, first noticed the tiny invertebrates during a recreational dive. She let the Aquarium know and a team was deployed the next day to survey the area.
Aquarium Dive Safety Officer, Jenna Walker, who lead the science dive team said, “It was overwhelming, when we first got down there it looked like the rocks were covered with barnacles. We soon realized those white spots were thousands and thousands of stars. I have never seen them in numbers like that, it was pretty incredible.”
The thumbnail-sized stars were so abundant, as many as 202 in a square meter, that divers had to change their survey protocol to get a representative sample of the stars’ numbers before they ran out of air. The stars are still too small for Aquarium staff to discern their species accurately, but they plan to return to the site regularly in the coming months to monitor their progress. Continue reading
Oregon Coast Aquarium Divers recently conducted submarine Science for Oregon Marine Reserve Managers in Port Orford. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife does not currently have a dive program, so these policy makers rely on contracted American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) certified divers from the Oregon Coast Aquarium to serve as their eyes underwater. The Aquarium, in partnership with researchers from Oregon State University, is doing all of the surveys to establish baseline population information for Oregon’s new marine reserves. These reports will help create a picture of what these areas look like underwater so ODFW can make informed decisions while managing these sites.
Over half a dozen divers plunged into a cold water reef near Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast in early September. Sustained winds were just six miles per hour, creating relatively calm boating and dive conditions for these seasoned divers. With slates and cameras in hand, they swam through surge that pitched them back and forth as far as 5 meters, carefully identifying and sizing every fish they spotted within their survey area. Redfish Rocks is the location of one of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) marine reserves. Continue reading
Six species of seabirds made way for busy parents and tiny chicks over the past week when two common murres pipped their way through egg shells and into the world. “They’re just a handful right now, no bigger than a lemon, and most of that is feathers,” said aviculturist Heather Olson. The baby birds’ diminutive size is temporary, and they are already packing on grams by the day.
The proud parents spend their time snuggling with their young chicks to keep them warm, delivering them tiny silverside fish to eat and shielding them from their curious feathered neighbors. Despite the parents’ suitably protective spirits, they tolerate daily checkups by the Aquarium’s aviculturists. The staff performs a careful visual examination of each chick and weigh them every day to ensure they are growing at a healthy rate. No word on the new additions’ genders yet, that requires a blood test, and the little birds need to grow a bit more before they are ready for that.
Common murres, which are frequently mistaken for penguins, nest in the open on top of rocks, just like their Antarctic cousins in the southern hemisphere. Parents take turns tucking the tiny two and a half ounce chick under their wings and delivering it small whole fish. Keen-eyed visitors may spot one of these baby birds nestled up against their parents’ bellies in the Seabird Aviary exhibit.
Baby birds in the Seabird Aviary are an exciting and uncommon event at the Aquarium. Aviculturists carefully assess the existing population, the genetic compatibility of each breeding pair and requests for birds from other AZA-accredited facilities. If there is no place for a chick from a certain breeding pair, the keepers will replace the couples’ egg with a similar looking plaster-filled dummy egg. This allows the birds to practice natural breeding behaviors without overpopulating the Aviary.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day this summer from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-FISH.
Information and photos provided by the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Visitors to the Oregon Coast Aquarium will be treated to a surprise perfectly suited to the summer season starting Tuesday, August 5. Each group that purchases Aquarium admission will receive an Oregon State Fair Fun Pass, good for one child or senior citizen’s admission to the August 22 to September 1 Oregon State Fair in Salem. The Aquarium partnered with Oregon State Fair because, to quote the Fair’s campaign, “Fun loves company,” and the two organizations hope these free passes will encourage Oregonians to enjoy the best summer possible. Just 12,000 passes are available, so Aquarium visitors may have less than a week to collect this special offer. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day this summer from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-FISH.