Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rescuers Racing To Save Stranded Sea Turtles

Endangered Kemp's Ridley Turtles Blown Ashore Saturday

BOSTON -- Colder weather and gusty winds pushed a surge of sea turtles onto Cape Cod beaches this weekend, sending rescuers scrambling to find the stranded reptiles before temperatures dip dangerously low overnight.

Dozens of endangered sea turtles usually begin turning up on the Massachusetts coast at the beginning of November, stunned by cold water in the Atlantic Ocean, but warmer-than-average temperatures this year kept the turtles at bay for a few extra weeks, New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said. LaCasse said the colder weather and blustery northwest winds this weekend caused the turtles to begin washing ashore along beaches from Dennis to Truro.

Since the start of the Thanksgiving holiday, 10 turtles have been rescued on the Cape by volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay, including five turtles that were carried ashore by the high tide on Saturday morning. Exposed on the beach, the turtles are in danger not only of hypothermia and pneumonia, but also shell fractures, infections and attacks from roving raccoons, sea gulls and dogs. In all, 13 turtles have been rescued this year, but LaCasse expects several more to turn up in the coming days.

The rescued turtles face a long road to recovery, with rehabilitation periods ranging from months to more than a year. Once the turtles are healthy again, they will be released back into the wild.

Over the past 15 years, the New England Aquarium has successfully treated and released more than 500 young Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, according to LaCasse.

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