Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dozens of sick turtles flown from Massachusetts to Florida in historic transport

By Johnny Kelly

In the largest transport of rescued turtles in the New England Aquarium's 40-year history, a U.S. Coast Guard plane loaded with dozens of endangered sea turtles recovering from hypothermia were flown from Massachusetts to Florida.

The Cape Cod Online reports an C-130 plane with 35 sea turtles on board took off from the Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod Friday morning and landed at Orlando International Airport that afternoon.

Volunteers rubbed down each turtle with petroleum jelly to retain moisture during the flight, said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the aquarium.

The turtles, rescued from the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary off Cape Cod, were recovering at multiple marine animal rescue facilities.

Twenty turtles were taken to SeaWorld Orlando. Five loggerhead turtles were taken to the Volusia County Marine Science Center. Three other facilities in Florida also took in turtles.

The flight cleared much-needed space due to the unprecedented number of sea turtles stranding on the Massachusetts coast in recent days.

LaCasse said the center surpassed its capacity for sea turtles after more than 100 arrived in the past 10 days.

The traveling turtles are part of at least 150 rescued from the beaches of Wellfleet Bay on Cape Cod by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, LaCasse said.

Of the 35 turtles flown to Florida, 15 were loggerheads, each weighing between 40 and 100 pounds and ultimately putting a strain on hospital resources because of their size, LaCasse said.

The aquarium’s tanks can normally hold five of the juvenile Kemp’s Ridley turtles, which usually account for 90 percent of the turtles found stranded. But the tanks can hold only one loggerhead.

The aquarium usually flies turtles on private planes, but this time the "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) intervened on an inter-federal agency level, and asked the Coast Guard if they had aerial resources to assign this flight,” LaCasse said.

The Coast Guard and NOAA are mandated to assist with turtle rescue efforts because of Congress’s Endangered Species Act, he said.

Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles but are still susceptible to infections at low body temperatures.

As ocean temperatures drop in the fall, the turtles get trapped in the Cape Cod Bay because they instinctively want to travel south to warmer climates, except the only way to do that is to exit the north end of the bay.

Many of the turtles develop hypothermia and wash ashore weeks later. By this time, many have no fat reserves and are suffering from dehydration and pneumonia and have fungal infections.

Sea turtle stranding season began in early November and last through December.

Source: Examiner

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hypothermic turtles “pouring” into Aquarium care center in Quincy


The New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy has received 40 endangered, hypothermic sea turtles from Cape Cod during the last three days including, aquarium officials said Wednesday, a disproportionate percentage of large loggerheads and green sea turtles.

Three turtles arrived in Quincy Wednesday morning, and several more were due in later in the day. Staff and volunteers with the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay rescued the turtles.

The sea turtle stranding season begins in early November and lasts through December, aquarium officials said. So far this season, nearly 90 sea turtles have been rescued.

At the Quincy center, the turtles are warmed 5 degrees per day for several days until their body temperatures are in the 70-degree range. This slow re-warming process helps the turtles fight off infections, according to information provided by the aquarium.

40 hypothermic sea turtles rescued on Cape Cod

By Sarah N. Mattero, Globe Correspondent

Forty hypothermic sea turtles found on Cape Cod are being taken to the New England Aquarium’s care center in Quincy to be warmed up, the aquarium said today.

The endangered reptiles, mostly large loggerheads and green sea turtles, have been pouring in over the past three days, aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said in a statement.

Sea turtles often become stranded from early November through December, so volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay stake out the coasts each year in order to save them.

Despite the fact that sea turtles are cold-blooded, they are susceptible to infections at such low body temperatures. The aquarium takes the reptiles and warms them up 5 degrees a day until their body temperature reaches slightly more than 70 degrees.

Almost 90 sea turtles have been rescued so far this season, including the recent batch, the aquarium said.

Loggerhead turtles are both an endangered and threatened species and typically weigh up to 250 pounds and grow up to 3 feet long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Green sea turtles are also an endangered and threatened species and can grow to about 3 feet long and weigh more than 300 pounds.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aquarium warms up stranded sea turtles; more expected after nor’easter

By Sarah N. Mattero |  GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  

It’s not just humans who have to brave the cold weather as temperatures drop, but each year beach walkers from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary on Cape Cod are on the lookout to rescue stranded sea turtles that are suffering from hypothermia.

Two sea turtles, weighing 3 and 5 pounds, are being re-warmed at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy after they were found in Dennis and Brewster on Tuesday with body temperatures of less than 58 degrees.

Although sea turtles — being cold-blooded — can survive with low body temperatures, they are susceptible to infections at that state, so the aquarium is warming the turtles by 5 degrees a day for four days until their body temperature reaches slightly more than 70 degrees, the aquarium said. In comparison, humans can begin to experience mild hypothermia when body temperatures reach 95 degrees, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

These particular turtles are Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, which are the most endangered sea turtle in the world, the aquarium said. Each summer they migrate to Cape Cod to feed on crabs, but every autumn 25 to 200 sea turtles face difficulty migrating out of the Cape and cannot migrate back south. Eventually, and after some therapy, the rescued turtles will be released in warmer waters down south, the aquarium said.

Audubon volunteers are searching for more turtles this morning that are expected to appear after Wednesday’s nor’easter, the aquarium said.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are considered to be the smallest marine turtle in the world, but adults can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow up to 28 inches in length, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration.

Source: The Boston Globe


Six turtles strand on the Cape

By Doug Fraser

WELLFLEET – Turtle stranding season began this week with six turtles washing ashore over the past two days.

Bob Prescott, executive director of Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary said all four turtles were in good shape and recovering at the sanctuary.

Two other turtles were found on Sandy Neck: a Kemps ridley turtle and a 60-pound loggerhead turtle.

Although the water temperatures remain relatively warm, these turtles were all cold –stunned, Prescott said, with lowered body temperatures after being blown ashore by high winds.

Two were recovered from Sandy Neck in Barnstable, one from Dennis and one from Brewster.

Patrols of volunteers were headed out after the tide dropped to look for more turtles that might have washed ashore, Prescott said.

Source: Cape Cod Times

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rescued 7-foot sea turtle released off Cape Cod

HARWICHPORT, Mass. (AP) — A 7-foot-long, 655-pound leatherback sea turtle found stranded near the tip of Cape Cod last week was released back into the wild after being treated for dehydration, trauma and shock, officials with the New England Aquarium in Boston said Sunday.

The turtle was found near death off the Truro shore on Thursday. Experts said it was underweight, lethargic and a large portion of its left front flipper was missing because of some kind of trauma. Aquarium officials say it may have become entangled in a vertical line of a lobster pot or boat mooring.

Veterinarians treated it with several drugs to stabilize its blood values and oxygen levels.

Aquarium officials say the turtle regained its strength, and they released it a couple miles off the Harwichport coast on Saturday. They say its prognosis isn’t clear.

Experts treated the turtle using information they obtained from research on leatherbacks over the past few summers.

Aquarium head veterinarian Charles Innis and rescue director Connie Merigo, who have rehabilitated nearly 1,000 sea turtles of smaller species, examined many leatherbacks weighing 400 to 1,000 pounds that they caught briefly and released off the cape and the islands, with the help of University of New Hampshire sea turtle researcher Kara Dodge.

The experts performed physical exams and collected tissue samples, and they used the information they obtained to treat the stranded leatherback.

Leatherback sea turtles are an endangered species and the largest reptile in the world. Aquarium officials say they migrate up the East Coast each June to feed on jellyfish in Massachusetts waters, and migrate back south for the winter in September and October.

The leatherback found Thursday was taken for treatment at the aquarium’s new marine animal care center in the former Quincy Shipyard. Rescuers used a dolphin stranding transport cart and a vehicle owned by the Cape Cod-based International Fund for Animal Welfare to bring it to the care center, where it was put into a pool.

After the turtle regained its strength, aquarium officials used a heavy tarp and forklift to load it into a vehicle that brought it to Harwichport. It was placed on the deck of a lobster boat and released with a tracking devise.

‘‘He dove deep right away and did not re-surface within sight of the boat,’’ aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said in a statement. ‘‘That is normal behavior for healthy leatherbacks that had been handled during the research field work. A couple of early hits came in off of his satellite tag indicating that he was moving.’’

© Copyright 2012 Globe Newspaper Company.

Friday, September 21, 2012

New England Aquarium treats stranded 655-pound leatherback sea turtle

By Sarah Mattero, Globe Correspondent

A 655-pound leatherback sea turtle is being treated by England Aquarium staff after being found stranded and injured on a mud flat in Truro.

Staff from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay contacted the aquarium after locating the turtle at dusk on Wednesday. Rescue efforts were postponed until Thursday morning due to the location, darkness, and incoming tide. The turtle was transported to the aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Quincy.

Medical staff noted that about 40 percent of the turtle’s front left flipper was gone due to recent trauma. Leatherbacks, who use their large front flippers to pull their bodies through the water, often lose parts of them to sharks or other large predatory fish and can still survive.

Rescuers have started administering drugs to treat the turtle for dehydration, trauma, and shock. Although its heavy weight may come as a surprise to many, the 7-foot turtle is actually considered underweight. Adult leatherback turtles typically weigh around 1,000 pounds, said aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse.

These endangered sea turtles are rarely found alive after stranding, and the aquarium has only handled five leatherbacks from Massachusetts beaches in more than 40 years, the aquarium said in a statement.

The aquarium said the animal’s prognosis is poor, since in order to strand it had to become critically ill, but aquarium veterinarians and biologists are working to rehabilitate the sea giant.

Leatherbacks usually migrate north to the area in June to feed on jellyfish and return south during the months of September and October, the aquarium said.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rare turtles born on Marion shores

MARION — On the state's endangered species list the diamondback terrapin turtles are classified as threatened. But, Marion resident Don Lewis says don’t count them out quite yet.

Last week, Lewis and his wife Sue Wieber Nourse discovered a nest of sixteen baby terrapins on a local beach. After a little tender, love and care, Lewis says the babies are thriving.

Known as the “Turtle Guy,” Lewis is the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts and an expert on turtles. For the past decade, he and his wife, who is a research scientist and CEO of Cape Cod Consultants, have been studying the terrapin turtles.

The turtles are rare in the Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester-area, with only an estimated 100 terrapins surviving in the South Coast habitat, Lewis said.

The terrapins have been a favorite prey among animal predators as well as with humans. Lewis said that the baby turtles were once a delicacy harvested by the barrels in the early 1900’s.

The terrapins have since been taken off the menu, but Lewis said the turtles nesting grounds by the shore have inadvertently collided with beach-goers.

“We humans like their habitat more than they do and we’re bigger and badder,” Lewis said. “They have to nest so it’s a competition with human development.”

Once the mother turtles lay their eggs, the eggs spend roughly two months incubating in the sand before hatching.

In an effort to protect the nests, Lewis and Nourse build a predator excluder (a cylinder made from chicken wire) around the nests that they come across.

“It keeps predators away, but you buy yourself a burden,” he said. “The babies can’t get out by themselves so we have to check the nests frequently.”

The couple have even opened their home to the small hatchlings with a “turtle garden” in their backyard to help the weaker turtles get into fighting shape before being released into the wild.

With a little help, Lewis said the turtles are making a comeback.

“I’ve been doing the same work in Wellesley for 30 years and we’ve definitely seen the numbers turn around significantly,” Lewis said.

For more on the couple's work, check out their website!

Source: Sippican Week

Leatherback Sea Turtle Named Kitty Captured and Released off the Coast of Massachusetts

BASSETERRE St. Kitts, August 18th, 2012  --   A female leatherback sea turtle bearing flipper tags WC 2551 on the left and WC 2507 on the right was captured August 9th, 2012 off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, by a research team led by Kara Dodge, a University of New Hampshire PhD student. These flipper tags have been tracked back to St. Kitts! The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) received this very exciting news Tuesday via Prof. Julia Horrocks, the Coordinator of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network’s (WIDECAST) Marine Turtle Tagging Centre at the University of West Indies in Barbados, who supply the flipper tags used by the SKSTMN.

Ms. Dodge’s research focuses on the movements and behaviour of leatherbacks in their foraging grounds off Cape Cod.  Her team uses a breakaway hoopnet to catch them and then tracks them with GPS-linked satellite tags (see photos). This leatherback was only the second tagged female that had been captured over the course of the project, which has been running for four years and includes capture of adult males, females, and subadults.

Following a health assessment and transmitter placement, the female was given the name Kitty and was released. The transmitter placed on her will provide important data over the course of the next few months and will enable scientists and the public to track her movements online.  Kitty’s movements can now be tracked online by going to this link <>.

Kitty was only the third leatherback sea turtle to be flipper tagged in St. Kitts during the SKSTMN’s first year of leatherback night patrols in 2005. She was originally tagged on 26 April 2005 while nesting on Keys Beach and then returned to nest on Keys Beach three times in 2007, once on North Friars in 2009, and twice on Keys Beach in 2011.  The SKSTMN expects to see Kitty again on the nesting beaches in St. Kitts in 2013 if she follows her established schedule.

It is not unusual for female leatherback sea turtles to migrate over 10,000 miles between their nesting and foraging grounds.  This highly migratory nature makes them a shared resource both regionally and internationally and drives home the importance of sharing critical biological information gathered on both the nesting beaches and foraging grounds. Fortunately for Kitty, St Kitts has already taken steps to protect her nesting ground through the designation of the UNESCO St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve that includes Keys Beach, the main leatherback nesting beach on the island.

Leatherback sea turtles are classified globally as Critically Endangered because scientists have determined that their populations have been reduced by more than 80% over the last century.  Only 1 in 1,000 leatherback sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood, and the females that survive will not return to nest on our shores until they are around 25 years of age.  Disturbing one of these ancient creatures during nesting carries a fine of EC$5,000. We urge all citizens to assist in efforts to conserve and protect sea turtles and their habitat so that they will be around for generations to come.

More information on Cape Cod leatherback research can be found at <>. For more information on sea turtles and regulations regarding them in St. Kitts please visit Please report any sea turtle sightings, nesting events, etc. to the Sea Turtle Hotline at
764-6664 or the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources at 465-8045.

St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network
The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) is a registered Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) in St. Kitts and a qualifying Public Charity under the United States Internal Revenue Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).  The SKSTMN was founded in January 2003 with the mission to: implement a long standing sea turtle conservation management program under the direction of the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources; promote community awareness of the plight of sea turtles; and provide non consumable sources of income to communities as an alternative to the sea turtle harvest in an effort to decrease pressure on St. Kitts turtle populations.

For more information on the SKSTMN visit

Source:  SKNVibes

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby turtles begin hatching on South Coast

By Turtle Journal
Wicked Local Wareham

Monday witnessed the first emergence of diamondback terrapin hatchlings on the South Coast of Massachusetts. Sixteen baby turtles were born on a barrier beach in Marion. From the end of May through early July, female terrapins, a threatened species in the state, swam ashore on coastal beaches in estuaries of Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay. Now, after incubating in eggs beneath the warm summer sand for 10 weeks, the first hatchlings have begun to emerge from the few nests that have avoided depredation. Without a little human kindness and assistance, predation rates for turtle nests soar into the 90 percent range.

Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse, of Turtle Journal, patrolled this barrier beach in Marion where they have documented terrapin nesting and have protected many such nests from predation. Wieber Nourse spotted hatchling tracks in the sand that disappeared into the surrounding salt marsh. Lewis deduced the likely location of the nest from the tracks and gently excavated the area with his fingers. About three inches below the surface he began encountering baby turtles that had “pipped” their eggshells with their prominent egg tooth, but were still a bit too immature to venture safely into the wild. Unfortunately for these remaining hatchlings, 10 of their siblings had left the nest overnight. With the scent that they left behind in their discarded eggshells, they would have set off the dinner bell for a host of predators. These babies would have been devoured in the evening as raccoons, skunks, foxes and other predators conducted their own hatchling patrols of the beach.

With a little help from human guardians, six tiny terrapins were recovered from the nest. They still need a few more days of maturity before they can be safely released into the nursery salt marsh abutting the barrier beach. But their odds of survival have been significantly enhanced as turtle researchers work to restore declining populations of diamondback terrapins in Buzzards Bay estuaries. Terrapins are listed as a threatened species in Massachusetts.

Beyond terrapins on bayside beaches, other turtle hatchlings should be popping up throughout the South Coast within the next few weeks: Eastern box turtles in your yard, painted turtles and snappers in uplands surrounding lakes and ponds, and spotted turtles in wetlands and bogs. Advice from the Turtle Journal Team: Slow down and look down. The life you save may be a baby turtle.

Source: Baby turtles begin hatching on South Coast - Wareham, MA - Wicked Local Wareham

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

State officials ask boaters to be wary of leatherback sea turtles

From an article in The Boston Globe by Sarah N. Mattero

Sightings of leatherback sea turtles have been reported around Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, and Nantucket Sound, prompting state marine biologists to urge boaters and commercial fishermen to be on the lookout for this endangered species.

Leatherback sea turtles migrate to Massachusetts waters from June through October to feed on jellyfish, but are often at risk of getting entangled in buoy lines or struck by vessels, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Recently, several boaters have performed disentanglements on their own, which is illegal and unsafe for both the boater and the turtle. Untrained disentanglements can result in serious injury to the animal and to those involved.

The global population of leatherback turtles is estimated at 26,000 to 43,000 nesting females annually, a decline from the 115,000 estimated in 1980. Leatherbacks can grow from five to seven feet long and can weigh between 500 to 2,000 pounds.

Officials asked boaters to call the 24-hour Marine Animal Disentanglement Hotline if they see an entangled sea turtle or whale at 800-900-3622 and remain at a safe distance until help arrives. Boaters can also call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 866-755-NOAA or the Coast Guard.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why turtles travel in nesting season

By Ruth Smith, Special to Berkshires Week

A female painted turtle was the focus of much curiosity and exploration among a group of preschoolers that I spent time with recently. She had climbed out of a river, crawled through the shoreline buffer of silver maples and clambered across a lawn in search of a sunny spot to lay her eggs.

This is a vulnerable time for turtles, as they leave the rivers and ponds where they spend most of their life, following an irresistible urge to produce the next generation of their kind. But it is also the time when we have the best chance for a close encounter with this common but normally skittish reptile.

The children had many questions and declarations during their close encounter.

"It's a snapper!" one boy exclaimed.
I explained that it was opening its mouth in attempts to startle us, but that the red and yellow stripes on its face, plus its smooth shell and small size, made it a harmless painted turtle.

One of the girls asked, "Why is he here?"

I answered that "he" was probably a "she" and showed them how to determine the gender of a turtle.

Often the plastron (lower shell) of the female is flatter than the male's. However, an unmistakable sign is that the male has long front claws used for clinging to the female's shell during mating. His tail is also thicker and longer, with the anal opening beyond the rear margin of the shell. The opening on the female's thin, short tail is under the edge of the shell.

I also suspected the turtle was a female because she was on land. From May through July, females may travel up to a half a mile from the water to find a suitable place to dig her nest and deposit five to 10 eggs. These eggs are oblong, about 1.5 inches long by 0.75 inches wide. The leathery shell is white or may have a yellow tint.

The eggs will be warmed by the sun throughout the summer. The temperature of the nest influences the sex of the hatchlings. Females are formed if the temperature is very high or low, and males develop when the temperature is more moderate. Because the eggs at the bottom of the nest may be a different temperature than those at the top, a single nest can produce both male and female young. The young may emerge in mid-August to late September, but some may overwinter in the nest and come out the following May.
Turtle nests are nearly impossible to see, because the female covers them so the ground looks as though she was never there. Predators such as skunks, raccoons and foxes use their sense of smell to find the nests though and frequently dig up and consume the eggs within 48 hours. It is estimated that 50 to 90 percent of nests are destroyed this way.

Egg predation is only one of the challenges that turtles face. During their journey on land the adults are also vulnerable to predators. Their webbed feet make them adept at swimming but awkward out of the water. Because ideal nest characteristics include loose, sandy soil in a sunny spot, females often pick sites along roadsides, gravel banks, or other disturbed areas where human activity occurs. This is the time of year when turtles are seen along the road or even crossing a street. Unfortunately, many of them don't survive these migrations, as they are hit by cars.

The most interesting question that the children asked about our visitor was, "What should we do with her?"

They clearly wanted to help. I explained that the best way to help turtles (or other wild animals) is to put them back where they are found. She was on a mission and needed to complete her task. The only exception is a turtle in the middle of the road, when she can safely be moved in the same direction she was traveling.

The best way we all can help turtles is to be observant and slow down when driving to avoid hitting them. With our caution and respect and a lot of luck, these creatures can live to be more than 30 years old. Good luck to those mommas on a mission!

What: 'Up close with snakes and turtles' -- search for reptiles with naturalist Réné Wendell

Where: Bartholomew's Cobble, Wheatogue Road, Sheffield

When: July 7, 10 a.m.

Admission: $4, or a family for $15

Information: (413) 229-8600,

Source: Berkshire Eagle

Monday, June 11, 2012

Volunteers needed for turtle-spotting program

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jun 10, 2012 @ 11:57 PM

It’s no secret — turtles are slow, and when they sense danger they stop in their tracks and retreat into their shells.

So with the region’s busy roads slicing up their wetland homes, they can once again use a little help this egg-laying season — like that afforded by the annual Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program and volunteers like retired Wayland teacher Emily Norton.

“The roads end up being killing fields for them,” Norton said of the female turtles, which leave the wetlands and cross roads to find soft, sunny, dig-able spots in which to lay eggs.

Four years ago, the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and Department of Transportation teamed up to save wildlife and boost human safety by reducing collisions with cars — the Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife program.

The initiative asks residents to report wildlife sightings though an online database so they can be pinpointed on Google Maps, with a particular ecological focus on turtles.

So far, program staff have trained 100 turtle spotting volunteers in species and habitat identification, as well as safety tips — like always face traffic when out working.

Each volunteer is given an orange hard hat and a reflective safety vest and adopts a short section of road identified as high-risk because of its proximity to wetlands, especially causeways with wetlands on both sides.

Volunteers go out for surveys three times, once in May and twice in June. They are asked to log the species, gender and estimated age of both living and dead turtles. Fatalities are particularly important, but, fortunately, not always spotted despite projections.

“I think people get more disappointed when they don’t find anything,” program co-Director and biologist David Paulson said from fish and wildlife’s Westborough headquarters. “I tell them a negative result isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

But Norton, who taught science and lives in Townsend, remembers dreading the drive to work along Rte. 27 in Wayland, knowing that near the Sudbury town line she would spot turtle casualties in the warmer months.

“I don’t know how many times I stopped traffic to get turtles across the road,” she said.

It was one of her posts for the study, and she would cart injured turtles to Tufts’ veterinary school in North Grafton, where they would usually die.

After securing two grants, a donation and a small army of volunteers, her team strung up wire mesh under an existing guardrail, with one-way doors in case animals still found a way onto the road. Mortalities soon dropped.

For the larger study, a stretch of Rte. 119 in Littleton was quickly identified as a hotspot, representing about 100 of the 303 fatalities identified in 2009, the most recent program report available.

But a new fence soon saw that number drop to a handful, Paulson said. Options elsewhere could include installing “wildlife crossing” signs, enlarging culverts or using barriers to funnel wildlife into existing passageways under roads.

Other spots in Sudbury have been studied, but came up clear, at least in 2009.

(Michael Morton can be reached at 508-626-4338 or

Source: The Milford Daily News

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New England Aquarium staff en route to Virginia release 17 endangered sea turtles

By Amanda Cedrone, Globe Correspondent

After several months of rehabilitation at the New England Aquarium, 17 endangered sea turtles were released Sunday evening off the coast of Virginia, officials said.

The turtles were rescued off of Cape Cod where they were discovered in the fall suffering from hypothermia, according to a statement from the New England Aquarium.

Staff from the New England Aquarium left Quincy -- where the aquarium’s animal care center is located -- early Sunday morning to transport the turtles to Virginia. They were released at about 8:30 p.m. near the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula with help from staff at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, the statement said.

The turtles were placed “in the sand just above the surf where the smell of the open ocean will fill their nostrils, and their flippers will hastily propel them into the water and a return to their home,” the statement said.

Along the Massachusetts coast, the warmest waters are approximately 60 degrees, which is too cold for the creatures, officials said. The water off of Virginia ranges in temperature from the low to mid-70s.

The group of turtles includes 15 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and two loggerhead sea turtles, the statement said. Kemp’s ridley turtles are the world’s most endangered sea turtle and the smallest, officials said.

The largest of the 17 turtles is an 80-pound loggerhead turtle named Juggernaut who was rescued by staff and volunteers of the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary weighing much less.

The turtle was suffering from hypothermia, dehydration, malnutrition, as well as a fracture on the lower shell surrounding its rear flippers, the statement said.

To ensure that the turtle gains the strength and mobility necessary in its rear flipper to catch food and escape predators, its caretakers rearranged the in-flow water pipes in its tank, forcing Juggernaut to use the flipper more regularly.

Juggernaut’s rehabilitation took six months to complete.

“Nothing happens quickly with a turtle,” said Connie Merigo, head of the aquarium’s rescue team, in the statement.

Adult loggerhead turtles weigh about 250 pounds, and can grow to about 3 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. They are reddish-brown, with a slightly heart-shaped top shell.

Kemp’s ridley turtles weigh about 100 pounds at adulthood, and can grow to be about 24 to 28 inches in length, the website said. They are grayish-green, with a somewhat circular top shell.

Amanda Cedrone can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ancedrone.


Monday, May 28, 2012

State wildlife officials to release more than 100 endangered turtles

HANSON, Mass — State wildlife officials are planning to release more than 100 endangered turtles that have been raised in a program that tries to help them survive past the early months of their lives.

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife officials will release the Northern Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings on Tuesday at Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson.

The endangered hatchlings were removed from the wild last fall. Then, as part of a program called "Headstarting," they were paired with various educational and scientific facilities, which raised them in warm environments with unlimited food.

That allows the turtles to grow faster, making them less vulnerable to predators when they're released.

The turtle can grow to 10 pounds and a foot in length. In Massachusetts, they're found only in ponds in Plymouth County.

Source:  The Republic

Monday, May 14, 2012

World Turtle Day 2012 Is Coming!

World Turtle Day, sponsored every year since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, was established to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises. Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways, including dressing up as turtles, assisting turtles crossing roadways (when conditions are safe), and taking part in research activities (such as citizen science volunteer programs).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Box Turtles and the Endangered Species Act

The box turtle's domed carapace is hinged at either end allowing it to box in its head and tail safe from marauding claws. This adaptation and its brown and tawny camouflage have served it well, individuals often living 80 years or more. Then we came with our roads and vehicles crisscrossing its habitat so fast we rarely notice its spring mate-searching or egg-laying journeys. Terrestrial by nature, it will cross roads more often than a painted turtle which finds its mate in the water and swims, feeds, and basks there all summer. Most box turtles spend their days feeding on plant and animal life within 2 to 8 acres of woods or fields returning to a bedding place every night, burrowing into the leaf litter come winter; a few wander long distances.

Usually in May or June, as long as four years after mating, the female (her underside is flat, his slightly concave) travels, as much as a mile, to open sandy ground to dig a hole for her eggs, usually four to six. These will hatch in two to three months. The hatchlings head out in search of food, such as beetles and caterpillars; as they grow older adding plants and mushrooms.

Hungry foxes, coyotes, skunks or raccoons devour many of the eggs. They too must eat, but we have tipped the balance, our suburban landscape and garbage encouraging skunks and raccoons to proliferate and allowing coyotes to be added to the mix.

About 10 years ago a long-time Lakevillian reported to the Planning Board that he had once spotted 30 box turtles on the acreage of a proposed development. A few months later the bulldozers began. I visited and found a box turtle on a pile of dirt, an intersection to be. I moved him, but turtles always resume their intended journeys so who knows where he went. Hopefully, if he survived construction and traffic, he is not trapped in a box in someone's kitchen, cursed by his physical charm.

Must every tract of open land that gets developed bring box turtles closer to disappearing from Lakeville where once they were plentiful? To the delight of some, dismay of others, our legislature passed the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) in 1990 hoping we might share land with its older inhabitants. As with most laws, the process of establishing and administering regulations is complicated and sometimes contentious. Someone must determine which creatures are dangerously declining. (Box turtles have been classified as a "species of special concern.") Next, the areas where the creature still lives must be determined. Then, based on biologists' searches and citizens' reported sightings, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program draws polygons on regulatory maps indicating the creature's habitat. Periodically these maps are revised with new information. If someone wants to construct a significant project within one of these polygons, his plans must be sent to NHESP where biologists will puzzle out if the project will be detrimental to the protected creature. If so, they will work with the applicant to figure out how the project and the creature can coexist.

Such regulations seem onerous in the context of property rights, but water and wildlife do not accept our boundaries. We can be proud to live in a state where we are keeping this in mind.

For more information on turtles, MESA, and how to report a box turtle sighting see:

Year of the Turtle, David Caroll


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program

Citizen Scientists Needed To Monitor Turtle Crossings

Turtles have existed for millions of years, but roadways are threatening the survival of local populations.  Turtles in Massachusetts often cross roadways late spring to early fall and are vulnerable to car collisions.  Ambitious citizen scientists, turtle enthusiasts, and conservation organizations are encouraged to join state wildlife and transportation personnel in collecting data for the Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program.  Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, a recent partnership between the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), Department of Transportation (DOT) Highway Division and UMass-Amherst, trained volunteers to collect data in 2010 and is expanding its volunteer program by offering two citizen scientist information and training sessions in Amherst and Westborough. These sessions are designed to train new volunteers, acknowledge current volunteer efforts, and share results from the first year of data collection. The information gathered through this volunteer effort will be used to coordinate local turtle conservation efforts.
The information and training session will be held on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 at the United Methodist Church, 6 Holmes Road in Lenox starting at 6:30 pm.  The event will be cosponsored by Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Project Native.  The sessions are free, but pre-registration is required.  Interested volunteers can register with Dave Paulson at or call him at (508) 389-6366.

Light refreshments will be provided.

For additional information please contact:
David Paulson, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, MassWildlife
Tim Dexter, Environmental Services Unit, MassDOT Highway Division

Friday, April 27, 2012

Turtles Gone Wild

Wareham Free Library to host ‘Turtles Gone Wild’ May 3rd

Through the magic of digital media, Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse - the Turtle Journal Team - will transform the Wareham Free Library into a reptilian paradise, with the presentation of “Turtles Gone Wild” on May 3 at 6:30 p.m., so kids from 5 to 105 can experience firsthand the hair-raising excitement of adventure and discovery.
They say participants will cast off the ordinary world of bricks and mortar, climb inside a dazzling sound and light show, and unleash their inner explorer.
The audience can watch as turtles wake from winter slumber, bask in bright spring sunshine and turn thoughts to creating the next generation of reptiles.
“You’ll hide in camouflage to observe female turtles trek across impossible obstacles to reach nesting sites and deposit egg clutches representing the future of threatened turtles on the SouthCoast. You’ll fast-forward as hatchlings emerge from the sand to take their first breath as they scramble to safety. You’ll uncover secrets about what makes these shelled critters such wild and wonderful telltale species of our natural world.  As turtle populations tumble, so goes the quality of life around us. As turtles prosper, so does the richness of our own world, too.
“Along our ocean coast, you’ll come face to face with five species of sea turtles that frequent Massachusetts waters. You’ll rescue a half-ton leviathan, a massive female leatherback, entangled in buoy lines and fighting for her life. You’ll patrol storm tossed beaches to rescue hundreds of the most endangered sea turtles in the world.”
Lewis serves as the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts.  Also known as “The Turtle Guy,” his research and rescue exploits have been featured on National Geographic TV and his work has been profiled in books on global animal rescue, endangered wildlife management and habitat preservation.
 Nourse, research scientist and master educator, is CEO of Cape Cod Consultants, an environmental solutions company specializing in wildlife management and critical habitat assessments that protect nature while expeditiously enabling client objectives. An intrepid adventurer, she led underwater research projects from the Canaries through the Caribbean Sea to the Hawaiian Islands, and from the Florida Keys through the Bahamas to Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine.
Their original nature stories and professional wildlife photography have appeared in newspapers, magazines and broadcast media locally, across the nation and around the globe. They document the nature of coastal Massachusetts on their website, Turtle Journal (, and they share real-time adventures directly from the wild on Twitter (

Source: Wareham Free Library to host ‘Turtles Gone Wild’ May 3 - Wareham, MA - Wicked Local Wareham

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Turtle Crossings

About Town: Signs of the Times

Turtle Crossing signs installed around town, Community Gardens in full swing.

Concord, Massachusetts | April 24, 2012

The town's highway department and staff and students at Thoreau School organized signage be posted to protect Blanding's turtles.

Once again Concord raises the bar in terms of conservation. A few weeks ago, the Concord Public Works Highway Division, in collaboration with the staff and kids at Thoreau School, placed signs warning motorists to slow down.

And what better to symbolize “slow” than an image of a turtle. Four
Turtle Crossing Signs were installed around town to protect Blanding’s turtles who may be negligent about looking both ways before crossing streets to seek out soul mates. It is mating season for the species, which is considered nearly endangered in Massachusetts, as their habitats become infringed upon and predators destroy their nesting sites.

The turtles mate through May and begin nesting in June. The new signs will be located on Monsen Road, the Peter Spring and Cranefield Road intersection, the intersection of Butternut Circle and Mallard Drive, - where this photo was taken - and Minuteman Drive. Congratulations to the Thoreau School and our town government for protecting the Blanding’s Turtle!

Field Hands

Last week I noticed the Community Gardens are in full swing again. Plots are being hoed, seeds planted and compost bins are dotting the landscape across from the courthouse on Walden Street. Pretty soon I’ll be posting pictures of the glorious sunflowers that will bloom here at the Hugh Cargill Community Gardens. Not bad for a piece of land that once boasted the Poor House. Best of luck to all the gardeners.

That’s it for now, so ‘til Tuesday …

Don’t forget Stefanie’s column on Thursday!

Do you have something you would like to share? Contact me at or Stefanie at and we will be happy to help you spread the good news. And follow us on Twitter: Stefanie is @stefanie3131 and I am @cosmo1162.

Source: ConcordPatch

Monday, April 2, 2012

Three outbreaks, three Salmonella strains, all linked to small turtles: CDC Continue reading on Three outbreaks, three Salmonella strain

Pet turtles have long been recognized as a major source of human Salmonella infection. Turtles are usually healthy carriers of Salmonella that shed the organism on an irregular basis in their feces.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday an investigation of three multistate Salmonella outbreaks linked to exposure to turtles or their environments

The three overlapping outbreaks involve three different strains of the Salmonella bacterium.

In total, as of Friday, 66 people, more than half under 10 years old, have been reported infected from 16 states.

Eleven of the victims required hospitalization for their illness. No deaths have been reported.

Salmonella Sandiego outbreak: To date, 45 individuals have been infected with this strain in 10 states (California-3, Georgia-1, Massachusetts-2, Maryland-5, New Jersey-5, New Mexico-3, New York-18, North Carolina-1, Pennsylvania6, and Virginia-1).

Continue reading on Three outbreaks, three Salmonella strains, all linked to small turtles: CDC - National infectious disease |

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nature responds to Cape Cod's warm winter

Spring is here. Actually, it never left.

By Rich Eldred
Posted Feb 08, 2012

The 50-degree days this week were another reminder that so far this is the winter that wasn’t. Outside of occasional cold days temperatures have been balmy and it’s rained far more than snowed.

“It’s been a crazy year,” observed Mark Faherty, science coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. “We had a green darner (a dragonfly) in December at Fort Hill. Insect activity is high because of the lack of frost.”

Faherty is also president of the Cape Cod Bird Club and he knows Cape Cod always gets its share of stray birds, lost migrants or ones blown in by storms. But the weather has enticed several to hang around.

“There has been an ash-throated flycatcher at Fort Hill (a bird more at home in the western scrub), a painted bunting in Eastham (it lingered at a feeder until Jan. 25) and a western kingbird in Orleans,” Fahey reported. “There was a massive flock of warblers at Marconi [Wellfleet].”

Those warblers should’ve gone south.

“Small insect eating migratory birds go to the Caribbean or central America where they spend the winter,” Fahey noted. “This December there were an inordinate number of insectivores ones that were hanging around the Cape. A black-throated blue warbler is still in Wellfleet, coming to a suet feeder. There have been a lot of late [migratory] seabirds, shearwaters into late December.”

A grey catbird was reported in Barnstable in mid-January. On the flip side, birds that winter on Cape have found other homes. Ducks that usually float on our ice-free ponds can do the same on the mainland.

One of the most unusual birds was a brown booby.

“That’s a big mostly tropical seabird. The only place they breed is Hawaii, you can see them off Miami,” Fahey explained. “One was found in Dennis in August and it ended up on the Breakwater in Provincetown through mid-December. So a bird that is never seen north of Miami was hanging out in Provincetown fishing with cormorants.”

The same bird turned up at Cape Cod Canal at the end of last month. The mid-Cape Christmas bird count (Dec. 27) produced a record 136 species.

While the weather has been kind to birds, so far, it has been a grim story with cold-stunned sea turtles.

“We’re up to 149 turtles, so it’s well above average,” reported Sanctuary Director Bob Prescott, who head sup turtle rescue efforts. “That’s a pretty high number, and because of the lateness of the season there are more dead than alive. We had 55 live (Kemp’s) ridleys and four [live] loggerheads out of 13. Right now there are only 31 live ridley’s and two live loggerheads in rehab. So in the end we’re seeing significant mortality.”

Normally, the cold-blooded turtles go south but some get caught in the relatively warm waters of Cape Cod Bay. When the cold weather shocks them the wind and waves toss the limp turtles up on shore. This year the warmer temperatures and lighter winds have left them in the Bay longer - chilled by low temperatures for a longer time but not helplessly washed ashore.

“This was a new experiment in nature,” Prescott said. “It was a nice experimental design. The turtles didn’t strand until well after Thanksgiving. There weren’t many northwest or westerly winds to blow them ashore. We were getting southwesterly winds into early December.”

In early January the water temperature was still 44 degrees, very warm for that time of year but too cold for turtles.

“On big windy days the water over the tidal flats in Brewster and Orleans is 10 to 12 degrees colder,” Prescott noted.

Most of the dead turtles are juveniles. Prescott pointed out that next year could be the first when the impact of the Gulf oil spill shows up. The spill was in 2010 and the two-year old juveniles will be here next summer.

“We’ll see what the sea surface temperatures mean for springtime. Often when we get warmer waters we get more warm water fish, black sea bass, scup might spawn in the Bay in greater numbers,” Prescott added.

One concern is deer ticks. When the temperature tops 35 degrees they’re active. A freezes will slow them down but not stop them as it would a mosquito.

“They actually synthesize glycerol, they make anti-freeze,” said Larry Dapsis, an entomologist with Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Service. “So if you go to an area like Wisconsin where it’s 30 below, they’re happy out there. We’ve recorded Lyme disease cases 12 months a year.”
Cape Cod remains a deer tick hotbed.

“Based on our research about 50 percent of adult ticks carry Lyme disease,” Dapsis said, adding that he’s been getting tick calls since October.

“Deer ticks carry two or three diseases, one that’s got out attention is babesiosos. Over half the cases in Massachusetts occur on Cape,” he noted.

Babesiosis attacks blood cells and causes flu-like symptoms.

Dapsis predicted that the dearth of acorns last fall will led to low mice populations next summer. If the deer tick nymphs can’t feed on a mouse they are more likely to bite humans.

“In 2004 we had a lack of acorns. In 2005 we had a 47-percent increase in Lyme disease,” he explained.

So there is something else to look forward to. He also predicted a big year for winter moths this spring, not so much because of the warm winter, but due to a heavy flight of mating moths in late November.

Dapsis warned gardeners to be on the lookout for two new pests: the brown marmorated stinkbug, an imported bug that invades homes in the winter and devastates crops in the summer. The spotted winged drosophila (a fruit fly) has also arrived in Massachusetts and can destroy soft fruit crops. It has spread here from British Columbia in just two years.

Copyright 2012 Falmouth Bulletin. Some rights reserved

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tufts study focusing on how development and global warming affect wildlife medicine

Taken from a Worcester Telegram article, January 31, 2012, titled, "Outdoors: Rodent-control poisons killing local hawks, owls":

"Tufts is doing considerable research along with its renowned wildlife clinic work. One current study focuses on how development and global warming are significantly affecting wildlife medicine here.

"Annually receiving many wild animals in their clinic, Tufts is in a unique position to note significant patient-pattern changes. Both the species makeup and numbers of patients are changing. For example, the normal pattern of turtle patients at Tufts coincides with periods of their greatest movements across roads, where they’re all too frequently hit by vehicles.

"In spring, when they’re eagerly looking for females, male turtles are far more frequently injured. In recent years, they’ve been arriving for emergency treatment as early as April, about a month earlier than normal. From late May to July, most injured turtles are females, especially after rains, when they get hit while looking for soft soil to lay their eggs.

"In August and September, most injured turtles are males, again looking for females. Females are able to mate late and store sperm, which can fertilize their eggs even years later — in fact, up to a decade later. This last turtle movement and resultant injuries are now occurring as late as November.

"Tufts and other vet schools around the country are obliged to send their valuable wildlife treatment data to government authorities. Unfortunately, that treasure of information is just being stored with no one analyzing it. There’s neither money nor motivation for analysis. The turning in of that paperwork is a bureaucratic formality. There’s certainly enough stuff in there collectively around the country for a dissertation. Too much work and information that could benefit wildlife is currently being wasted. Dr. Pokras would like to see that changed."

Using technology
"Outdoorsmen and women should check our state’s new, entertaining and informative outdoors blog for communication with biologists, park rangers, agricultural and recreation experts about outdoor adventures. You can get their suggestions for hiking, hunting, birding, fishing, farm tours, boating, camping and more. Go to to help make your outdoors experience both more fun and successful.

"EEA secretary Richard Sullivan announced the Get Outdoors Massachusetts Mobile Apps Contest inviting smart phone mobile application developers to create applications to help the public find outdoor recreation hot spots featuring natural resources in Massachusetts.

"The idea is for app developers to create a public connection to the commonwealth’s best outdoor activities and destinations. The submission deadline is March 30, and registration is free.

"Prizes include the opportunity for entrants to showcase their work to local technology executives, as well as a chance to join wildlife biologists on bald eagle banding expeditions or black bear surveys, a local farm bed-and-breakfast weekend stay, a year-long MBTA subway-bus LinkPass, and the opportunity to sell winning apps after offering them free to the public for a year. Winners will be announced on April 18.

"Many will appreciate the smart phone accessible service that will be developed at no cost to the taxpayer. For information, go to"

Further links:
Interesting case at Tufts: Snapping Turtle

Sunday, January 15, 2012

8 Endangered Sea Turtles Board Plane To Warmer Climate

Turtles Fly From Boston To South Carolina

BOSTON -- On the coldest day of the winter, eight rescued and endangered sea turtles from Massachusetts are headed south by private plane to warmer temperatures.
The recovering cold-stunned turtles are being cared for by the New England Aquarium and were transferred Sunday afternoon from Hanscom Field Airport in Bedford.

More than 40 young turtles had become trapped on the north side of Cape Cod this past fall and slowly became hypothermic as the waters cooled. They stranded in December and were rescued by staff from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay.

With eight turtles now medically stable, officials at the South Carolina Aquarium approached North American Jets owner, Mason Holland, to see if the seven Kemp’s Ridleys and one hybrid sea turtle could hitch a ride south.

Holland agreed because he had an aircraft in the Boston area doing demonstration flights over the weekend.

Once the turtles arrive in South Carolina, they will head to the aquarium where they will finish their rehab and eventually be released in the late spring.

Kemp’s Ridleys are the world’s most endangered sea turtle species.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Proposed scalloping regulations aim to protect sea turtles

The scallop industry has until Jan. 18 to weigh in on new regulations proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service to help fishermen avoid encounters with sea turtles, which sometimes become entangled in their gear.

The measure would require scallop vessels with a dredge width of 10½ feet or larger to use a "turtle deflector dredge" in the waters along the mid-Atlantic coast, west of 71 degrees west longitude, from May through October. The fisheries service is seeking public comment on the proposal through Jan. 18.

Research has shown that loggerhead sea turtles are frequently found in the area and have been inadvertently caught by boats fishing there from June on. May was included in the proposal as a precautionary measure, based on satellite sightings of turtles in scalloping areas during that month.

In encounters with the scallop fleet, turtles usually don't fare well, said Ron Smolowitz of the nonprofit Coonamessett Farm Foundation in East Falmouth, which has led the research into the new gear with funding from the scallop industry and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Tests of the new dredge gear have shown the modifications to the traditional design will not compromise the structural integrity of the dredge nor reduce scallop yield, according to NMFS.

Dan Eilertsen of New Bedford owns six scallop boats and worked with Smolowitz on developing the gear. Eilertsen has already deployed the TDD gear on his boats and expressed general satisfaction with its performance.

"It fishes well but it takes a little more fuel," he said. "They're a little harder to pull around but they fish well. They're at least as good as the others and they may be better, if anything."

To give the industry time to develop TDDs for the scallop fishery, the proposed measure would go into effect one year after the ratification date if, as expected, the measure is approved. If Framework 23, as the rule is known in the industry, is adopted on March 1 the TDD regulations would become effective on March, 1, 2013, and the new dredges would become mandatory in these areas starting May 1 of next year.

The fisheries service is also proposing a revision to the schedule for the yellowtail flounder seasonal closure on Georges Bank and in Southern New England waters. If implemented, closures would be imposed during months with the highest catch rates rather than for consecutive months at the start of the fishing year as is now the case.

For questions or more information on these changes, contact Emily Gilbert, a fishery policy analyst at NMFS, at 978- 281-9244.