Monday, November 30, 2009

Endangered turtles wash ashore on Cape

SOUTH WELLFLEET — Beach patrols Saturday night turned up another half-dozen turtles, washed up on the sand, immobilized by the cold water and wind.

With the wind still blowing onshore at 30 mph and water temperature in Cape Cod Bay finally dipping below 50 degrees, Massachusetts Audubon Society volunteers and staff walked bay beaches from Eastham to Dennis and found five "cold-stunned" Kemp's ridley turtles and one green sea turtle.

Turtles become "cold-stunned" when the water temperatures drop, causing their body metabolism to slow to the point where they can no longer swim. They then come to the surface so that they can breathe and float to shore. While most of the sea turtles that visit the Cape in warmer months have already headed south, some stragglers inevitably stay behind, continuing to feed while waters remain warm.

Kemp's ridleys are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. They can grow to where the shell measures two feet in length and they weigh 75 to 100 pounds. The green sea turtle is also listed as an endangered species and can attain four feet in shell length and weigh nearly 900 pounds.

Including the reptiles found Saturday night, a total of 29 turtles have been discovered on beaches from Sandwich to Provincetown since October.


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