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Saving Cold Stunned Sea Turtles - What You Can Do

posted Oct 21, 2010, 6:41 PM by Arie Gilbert   [ updated Mar 2, 2011, 11:12 AM ]
By Rick Kedenburg

Now is the time of year that most Sea Turtles leave this area and head south for the winter.  A number of them, lulled by the relatively warmer waters of our Sound and Bays, linger too long and are trapped by a sudden cold snap that brings water temperatures down below sustainable levels for reptiles. Oct, Nov & Dec are critical times for saving these trapped Turtles. Anyone who walks the beach during this time can play a crucial role in saving them. As water temperatures drop into the 50-60 ̊F level the Turtle's body starts to shut down. Later in the winter when water temps are below 50 ̊F it's too late as hypothermia kills the turtles. Finding a Turtle in the next few months can save it's life.

Here's what to do and not do; First call the 24-hour Rescue Hotline at 631-369-9829. This is the # for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. It's a good idea to write this # down and keep it in your wallet. Call immediately for further instructions and to arrange for a pick up of live or dead Sea Turtles.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WARM THE TURTLE !!!  Rapid warming may cause irreversible damage to a Turtle. Time is a factor in raising body temperature and rehabilitation.

Remove smaller Turtles from the beach and hold in a COOL sheltered area such as an unheated car or truck bed. Or cover the Turtle to protect from the elements - until the response team arrives for pick up.  If any Turtle is left on the beach your presence will help to protect it from predators.  Larger Turtles that are too heavy should be protected  by placing a blanket on them and clearly marking the area for the pick up team.

You can patrol at anytime, but chances are greater at finding a Cold Stunned Turtle at low tide, particularly after storms or cold snaps.  As you walk check the beach from the dune to the water line. Check the water for floating Turtles and check for Turtles beneath dried seaweed.
RFMRP is also interested in data on any sightings of other Marine Mammals such as Seals (Pinnipeds), Dolphins, Whales, and Porpoises. Please call 631-369-9840 EX# 24 to leave your # and a message.

Here are the three types of Sea Turtles you are likely to see. Green (Brown Shell oval) small head, Kemp's Ridley (Heart Shaped Shell) large head, Loggerhead (Oval shaped) very large head.