A massive 6ft leatherback turtle has been discovered dead and tangled in creel ropes by a fisherman on the west coast.
The underwater giant, an incredibly rare sight in Scottish waters, is feared to have drowned and a post mortem is being carried out.
The exotic species, which has been about for more than a hundred million years, nest in the Caribbean and is classed as an endangered species.
The leatherback weighed a massive 58st 11lbs (380kg) and is estimated to be aged between 40 and 80-years-old, and was found on Wednesday by a local fisherman in Eddrachillis Bay near Drumbeg, Sutherland.
It was towed by the fisherman to Lochinver to the amazement of locals who flocked to see one of the biggest turtles in the world.
It was kept in Lochinver Harbour under cover until staff from the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness picked it up yesterday.
“It looked out of this world,” said Highland Council ranger Andy Summers who saw the leatherback when it arrived in Lochinver at about 6pm on Wednesday evening.
“A local fisherman bringing in his creels found it and got a shock. It was tangled up in the ropes.
“The weight of it must be huge. It was six and half feet long.”
Mr Summers continued: “A lot of people came down to look at it, even Lochinver Primary School came to look at it.
“It was a bit smelly, we didn’t put it in the freezer but left it on the pad and the vet put it in the trailer the next day.”
He continued: “I’ve never seen anything like a leatherback’s mouth. It has backward pointing spines to stop the jellyfish getting back out.”
Nick Davison, Strandings Coordinator for Scotland, who will be carrying out the postmortem later today, said a warm summer and large numbers of jellyfish in Scottish waters is most likely reason the massive turtle was in the north of Scotland.
“They are also very prone to digesting marine litter. Turtles aren’t the brightest things, they ingest plastic bags they think are jellyfish,” he added.
The last leatherback seen in the area was in 2003 and found dead onshore in Drumbeg.