Turtle Strandings Double Last Year's Numbers

Nov 25, 2014

The Coast Guard load up Banana Boxes filled with Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles.
Credit Scott Lebeda

  No, those aren't bananas in those boxes. The New England Aquarium and other organizations who are knee-deep in cold-stunned turtle rescues and have run out of the traditional plastic boxes used to transport the stranded animals. 

The record has nearly doubled from last year with reports of close to 1000 turtles washing up on Cape Cod shores this year. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning more than 190 turtles were packed up with the help of volunteers and shipped off to Florida, North Carolina and other Southern destinations.

Around the Cape and Islands, the number of cold-stunned turtles is expected to grow in coming days when the weather turns colder.  The turtles are being found on beaches from Brewster to Truro.  Bob Prescott, director of Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, says the unprecedented numbers of turtles that need care are overwhelming his facility, as well as the New England Aquarium's care center in Quincy. 

Over the weekend, there were some 300 of the animals at the Quincy facility, nearly double its capacity.  Some turtles are being taken to the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay. Center director Kathy Zagzebski says most of them are endangered Kemp's Ridleys.

Cold-Stunned Turtle at the Quincy facility.
Credit Scott Lebeda

Zagzebski says about 80 percent of the turtles will survive, eventually being returned to warmer waters.  Marine experts aren't sure why so many turtles are stranding this season, but say the early cold weather definitely has been a factor.

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