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Experts to investigate death of another endangered leatherback turtle

A dead leatherback sea turtle found floating between Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard is being taken to the New England Aquarium Animal Care Center in Quincy for a post-mortem examination, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the aquarium.

It is the second endangered leatherback found dead in the area in a week. The 400-plus-pound turtle, which appeared to be tangled in a fishing net, was picked up around noon today. A necropsy will be performed today or Tuesday, LaCasse said.

Two other leatherback sea turtles were disentangled over the weekend.

Another leatherback turtle was found on the beach of the Tides Motel in Falmouth last week, he said. Officials determined that turtle was most likely killed by propeller strikes.

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“We are worried about it,’’ LaCasse said, noting that recreational boaters should be cautious of leatherbacks and other marine wildlife.

Leatherbacks normally migrate through the waters south of Cape Cod in June and July, but some stay later, running the risk of being injured by recreational boats, LaCasse said.

The creature is the world’s largest sea turtle and the only one without a hard shell, which is where its name comes from. The turtles found in waters off of Cape Cod are normally between 400 pounds and 700 pounds but can weigh thousands. Their black color makes it especially hard to spot them when they are scouring for jellyfish on the surface of the water, LaCasse said.

Boaters are encouraged to reduce their speed and to keep watch from the bow for the turtles and other marine life that may be near the surface of the water. Boaters who spot a leatherback sea turtle entangled in mooring lines or lobster pots should contact the Coast Guard and stay with the animal until help arrives, LaCasse said.

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