@NEAQ sees sea turtle stranding season activity pick up

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, 12 endangered sea turtles were found on the beaches of Cape Cod by some dedicated (and likely very cold) Mass Audubon Sanctuary WellFleet volunteers. All the turtles have been transported to the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA, joining the 4 rescued since Nov 5th, to be slowly warmed and rehabilitated. 13 of the turtles being rehabbed at the facility are rare juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

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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.

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.

In the area? VOLUNTEER! 
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.