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Vanderbilt Beach

280 Vanderbilt Beach Rd. , Naples, FL

— Without a shell and with little flesh left on its bones, the carcass that washed ashore at Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples on Tuesday hardly resembled a sea turtle.

The remains of the 3 1/2-foot turtle were discovered by beachgoers strolling the beach Tuesday morning.

This finding follows four other dead turtles that washed ashore on or near Fort Myers Beach in two days.

Officials have yet to release a cause of death for any of the turtles.

Federal officials say 189 dead sea turtles, birds and other animals have been found along Gulf of Mexico coastlines since a massive oil spill started last month.

The total includes 154 sea turtles, primarily the endangered Kemp’s ridley variety, plus 12 dolphins and 23 migratory birds.

But in a phone news conference Tuesday, officials said they don’t know how many were killed by oil or chemical dispersants.

Cynthia Caynor, the Collier County park ranger who retrieved the body from Vanderbilt Beach and placed it in a plastic trash bag, declined to offer the species of the turtle, reveal how often dead turtles wash ashore on Collier beaches or comment on the possible cause of death.

Despite the decomposition of the turtle, the body was still considerably heavy. Caynor had to request the help of nearby La Playa beach resort employees, who picked the body up and carried it to her truck with their all terrain vehicle.

Two adult male loggerheads and one of the two severely decomposed turtles found on Fort Myers beach showed signs of boat strikes, but scientists have yet to determine the cause of death for them, said Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. The turtles were too decomposed to do a necropsy, she said.

An FWC biologist says it’s not unusual to find sea turtles dead this time of year, Segelson said Tuesday.

There is no indication that the turtles were exposed to or died from oil exposure.

Barbara Schroeder of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries program says necropsies have not detected oil in the bodies of any of the 154 sea turtles.

Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould says the spill’s effects could be felt for decades and may never be fully known because so many affected creatures live far offshore.

To report an injured, stranded or dead sea turtle, call FWC at 1-888-404-3922.

Contributions to the this story were made by Daily News Correspondent Vallie Finney and AP reports.

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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