Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cold-stunned turtles arriving at Aquarium's Animal Care Center

The sudden burst of winter temperatures and brisk winds has not only sent a chill through many New Englanders but also through twelve endangered sea turtles that were rescued from Cape Cod beaches Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Thirteen of the hypothermic turtles are juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are most endangered sea turtle in the world. The last is a juvenile green sea turtle.

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle patient at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center

The turtles are being brought to the New England Aquarium’s state of the art sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA where they will be slowly re-warmed over several days and treated for many weeks to months for a host of other life threatening medical problems related to prolonged severe hypothermia.

Rescuers were busy doing intake exams on all the turtles that arrived today.

The two- to ten-pound sea turtles with black shells were collected by staff and volunteers with the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay who walked the frigid beaches looking for the near motionless marine reptiles in the debris at the high tide line. With strong westerly winds creating steady wave activity, the floating turtles left the 50-something degree water to more dangerous conditions on the beach with early morning air temperatures in the 20’s. Getting to the turtles in a timely manner is important to avoid a further drop in body temperature.

Turtle exams include drawing blood, temperature and a thorough observation of the turtle's physical appearance

November and December is the sea turtle stranding season on Cape Cod as juvenile sea turtles that have migrated there for the summer to feed on crabs fail to return south to warmer waters. All of these strandings occur on the north side of the huge peninsula in Cape Cod Bay. The bay is surrounded by land on three sides with its only opening to the north, which is instinctively counter-intuitive.

Aquarium rescue personnel are bracing for another big season. On average, they treat about 70 sea turtles, but last year was record smashing as they received 242 cold-stunned sea turtles. Up until today, the season had progressed slowly with four sea turtles stranding over a week’s time beginning on Election Day, but the sudden burst of winter weather has changed all of that.

Follow the sea turtle stranding season on the Aquarium's Rescue Blog. Want to help? Support the Aquarium's rehabilitation efforts by giving to the Aquarium.

If you're on the Cape, volunteers are needed at Mass Audubon.
Volunteer to walk the beaches! If you can volunteer a couple of hours a week, day or night, you could help save the life of a sea turtle by helping to get it off the beach before it freezes. Does walking beaches in 30 to 40 mph winds with air temperatures hovering around 30 degrees seem like fun? Well, we have an opportunity for you! How about helping us at 2 am? We’re not kidding, we’re out there.

Volunteer to be a driver! All the live sea turtles are transported to the New England Aquarium Rescue Center in Quincy. We sometimes need to make two or three trips a day. To become a volunteer, please contact volunteer coordinator Diane Silverstein by calling, 508-349-2615.

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