Friday, December 3, 2010

Volunteers helping save turtles on Cape Cod

(NECN: Greg Wayland, Eastham, Mass.)

The race is on to save turtles on the coast of Cape Cod.
Every year, volunteers come together to rescue and rehabilitate the animals.

It's been a record year for stranded sea turtles in Massachusetts waters -- 140 and counting, and today they added a few more.

Bill Allan: "We're right about high tide now and what happens, the turtles will come in with the tide and the waves."

We stood above the cold December sea in Eastham, Mass., Bill Allan and I. We'd come to look for sea turtles stranded by the high tide.

Then, like hundreds of volunteers in towns facing Cape Cod Bay, we walked the beach, with extra help from Bill's golden retriever Hunter.

He's good at hunting for those stranded turtles. Every year in November and December, hundreds of them slip into the warm Gulf Stream from Mexico, get carried north to feast on crab in warm Cape waters, then become trapped in the Cape's long curving arm.

We looked along the "rack line" -- that margin of seaweed and flotsam where turtles usually turn-up, cold-stunned and inert from the forty-degree waters.

Wind is always a factor in where turtles will turn up.

"When we get westerly winds, we'll cover from Truro to Brewster. When it's northerly winds it's from Orleans to Barnstable or Sandwich.

"Finally we got word that there was a turtle that had come ashore at Breakwater Beach in Brewster.

"It's a little Kemp's-Ridley."

A young Kemp's-Ridley, the most endangered of the species -- seemingly lifeless, cold-stunned, its heartbeat possibly as low as one beat per minute.

Volunteers had staked it out, protected it with grass and seaweed, even written "turtle" next to it in the sand,
then moved on in search of more turtles.

Bill took it to the Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet.

Soon, Sanctuary director Bob Prescott arrived with more. volunteers to help clean, measure and weigh them
and box them for the trip to the New England Aquarium's Quincy sanctuary where they slowly raise their
temperature five degrees a day and revive them.

On the beach, Bill told us he's been doing this rescued work for eight years.

Bill: "And a couple of times I've gotten to release the turtle that I found the prior November. That's a big high."

About a hundred forty have been rescued so far this year -- and still counting.

If you wish to help volunteer, call the Wellfeet Audubon Sanctuary at 508-349-2615.

Source: NECN

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