When angler Dan Maloon spotted what appeared to be a plastic bag floating in California's Joaquin River, he didn't think much of it. But as the object moved into view, he realised the "bag" was in fact a large sea turtle.

After uploading his clip to YouTube in the hope of getting more info on the strange sighting, confirmation came from experts at the Turtle Island Restoration Network, who identified the animal as an endangered Eastern Pacific green sea turtle.

Despite being far from home, the turtle appeared in good health and was swimming well, but that doesn't mean it's not at risk. "These waters will start to get very cold soon and are mostly freshwater, which is not suitable for a sea turtle," the Sea Turtle Conservancy said in a statement. 

Strange as this situation is, it's not the first time a green turtle has been seen in California freshwaters. Back in August, a team of scientists found a small population of the seafaring reptiles hunkered down in a river outside of Long Beach. Until now, those pioneers were the northernmost group of green sea turtles known to science. 

In that case, power plants situated along the riverbed had raised the local water temperature, turning the usually chilly habitat into something of a jacuzzi for the tropical turtles. Wildlife officials suspect something similar is happening in the Joaquin River, as El Niño waters moving up the coast could have lured the animal north.

“I’ve seen beavers, otters and whatnot on the San Joaquin, but nothing like this,” Maloon told The Modesto Bee. “I’ve now heard the ‘Nemo’ jokes and less tasteful jokes about turtle soup. Somehow that thing needs to be turned around and head the other way.”

At the time of this post, no rescue plans were underway. We'll keep you posted as things progress, so watch this space!


Top header image: Kristi/Flickr