Sea turtle takes a wrong turn, becomes lost on suburban street
A north Queensland couple has had an unusual start to the day after finding a green sea turtle more than 1 metre long in their driveway.
- The sea turtle wandered about 400 metres from the Mackay Harbour beach into a residential area
- The animal was spotted when a resident was about to reverse out of his driveway
- A local conservation group was called to help guide the turtle back to the ocean
The turtle had wandered about 400 metres from the Mackay Harbour beach and into the residential area.
Mackay Harbour resident Christine Den Elzen said her husband spotted the animal on Wednesday morning when he was about to drive out of the driveway.
“My husband was reversing out of the driveway and he caught sight of the turtle in his reversing camera,” Ms Den Elzen said.
“He had to go out to work and he yelled out to me knowing I had some contacts and said, ‘There’s a turtle’.
“I thought he meant just a little turtle that I could pick up and take back to the beach and I walked up and said, ‘This is a big turtle’.”
The journey has astounded a local conservation group, who were called to help guide the turtle back to its home.
Tthe turtle had come ashore to nest but became disoriented in a storm. (Supplied: Christine Den Elzen)
Mackay Turtle Watch group president Steve Fisher said he had not seen anything like it before.
“They’ll go to a dune and if it’s not right for them they’ll crawl along the dune system and sometimes go back down to the beach, so they can sometimes do 100 metres but that’s a fair crawl,” Mr Fisher said.
When Mr Fisher measured the turtle, it came in at 108 centimetres.
“That’s the length of the shell, not including the length of her head and tail — a turtle generally of that size is well over the 100-kilo mark,” he said.
Mr Fisher said the turtle had come ashore to nest but likely became disoriented in a storm.
“It looked like she’s attempted to nest and then got disorientated at some stage — whether it was because it was near high tide and a storm was coming through,” he said.
“Their vision is magnified by using saltwater, so when they’re out, they have very poor vision on the land, so this girl was virtually blind.
“All the instincts that she normally uses to return to the water were being hampered by buildings and structures and where she’d got to was a big white brick wall and she didn’t know where to go.”
He said it was important to be gentle in getting the turtle back to shore.
“You don’t need to be physical with them, so if you just work on their peripheral vison they’ll react to it,” he said.
“As you walked beside her on one side, she moved away from a shadow coming in, so we used that to shepherd her around to a vacant block, and then from the vacant block access to the beach — it took about an hour and a half.”
‘A real shock’
Ms Den Elzin said although she lived and ran a business at the harbour, she had never seen a green sea turtle — let alone have one show up at her house.
“You’ve got to be careful what you wish for because I walk the beach every morning and I see the new nests and see the turtle tracks,” she said.
“I’m going home saying I desperately want to see a turtle and it turned up in the driveway basically.
“It was a real shock and it was sad too to see it had become so disorientated and lost its way.”
Mr Fisher said turtles could get disorientated by lighting on beaches — though he did not believe that was at play here.
“The harbour is quite well designed — they don’t have a lot of lights that impact on the turtles,” he said.
Ms Den Elzin said it was situations like this that showed how important local conservation groups were.
“I was just thankful that I was able to call someone and be able to contact someone straight away,” she said.
The sea turtle returned to the ocean after becoming lost on a road at Mackay Harbour. (Supplied: Christine Den Elzen)