By Don Lewis aka the Turtle Guy
Late Monday morning, Karen Whalley of Plymouth and her son Teague walked Sagamore Beach on a beautiful sunny day. The seas were calm and the winds gentle. The tide had receded, allowing Karen and Teague to explore the shoreline. As they approached a rock groin, Teague and his mom found a “beautiful” sea turtle unlike anything they had ever seen on the beach before. Not knowing what to do, they returned to their nearby home and searched the internet to find a Cape Cod sea turtle rescuer to call. Google search produced the hotline number for Turtle Journal (508-274-5108). They also found procedures on the site for saving stranded sea turtles.
After calling the Turtle Journal rescue team, Karen and Teague rushed back to the beach. The tide was rising quickly, and they had to plunge into the water to recover the turtle before it was dragged out to sea and condemned to certain death. As they lifted the turtle to the beach, it began to move its flippers, signaling that it was quite alive.
Karen and Teague covered the sea turtle with dry seaweed to prevent hypothermia while they waited for the Turtle Journal team to arrive.
Turtle Journal's Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse examined this juvenile, 2-year-old Kemp’s ridley. Its right eye had been damaged either by scraping against the rocks as it was driven ashore or by predatory gulls. But this little critter proved a survivor and demonstrated its fight for life by trying to “swim” out of Lewis' arms. Even though it was late in the afternoon, Lewis knew that this animal would not survive the night unless it received immediate medical attention. He called the New England Aquarium marine rescue hotline and explained the situation. While they are swamped with nearly a hundred cold-stunned turtles already, and rarely take new patients this late in the day, they generously agreed to accept this Kemp’s ridley. Lewis and Wieber Nourse raced up Route 3 to the new marine rescue facility in Quincy, and the turtle was admitted to the emergency facility by 4:15.
But none of this would have been possible if it were not for a heroic yound lad, Teague Whalley, and his mom Karen.
Don Lewis is executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts; Sue Wieber Nourse is a marine researcher, textbook author and master educator. Known as the Turtle Guy, Don and his spouse and partner, Sue Wieber Nourse, have led research, rescue and conservation activities from the tip of Cape Cod to Mount Hope Bay and around the globe for more than a decade. They own and operate Cape Cod Consultants, an environmental solution company that specializes in wildlife issues and habitat assessments that protect nature while enabling appropriate development. Their nature discoveries are chronicled on Turtle Journal.