‘Cold-stunned’ sea turtles rescued along Cape Cod

Courtesy of Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Cold-stunned Kemps ridley sea turtle is measured and weighed at Mass Audubons Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Nine stranded sea turtles were recovered from beaches along Cape Cod on Election Day, marking the beginning of the cold-stunned sea turtle rescue season for volunteers.

The eight live turtles will be treated at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy and the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay, Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary said in a statement.

Rescuers found seven live “cold-stunned” Kemp’s ridley turtles, the world’s most endangered sea turtles, on beaches from Eastham to Brewster, said Jenette Kerr, an Audubon spokeswoman.

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A live loggerhead sea turtle was also rescued in Orleans, the sanctuary said, but was likely stranded due to injury. In addition, a dead ridley was recovered from Race Point Beach in Provincetown, Kerr said.

Strong winds likely helped bring the turtles to the Cape’s shores, according to Wellfleet Bay Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator Karen Dourdeville.

“These sea turtles were probably slowing down since the bay’s water temperature is now 55 degrees,” Dourdeville said in a statement Tuesday. “When they get cold enough, sea turtles will stop feeding and swimming. Two or three days of strong winds can help blow them ashore where we’re able to rescue them.”

Cold-stunning occurs every year when the turtles get stuck in the Cape’s hook shape and become unable to escape the cooling waters to go further south, Kerr said. Oftentimes, live cold-stunned turtles can appear to be dead when they wash ashore.

For more than 30 years, sea turtles have been stranding along the Cape from late October through December, Kerr said.

This year’s first rescue is about a week earlier than last year’s, which ended its season with around 300 turtles stranded. A record 1,200+ sea turtles were rescued or recovered in 2014, according to Kerr.


Anyone who finds a stranded sea turtle on a beach during the fall is encouraged to “bring it above the highest high tide line, cover it completely with dry seaweed, and mark the spot either with beach debris or a large arrow drawn in the sand,” Kerr said.

The turtles should also be reported to the sanctuary at (508) 349-2615, extension 6104, available 24/7, she said. Those who call should be precise about the beach name and the turtle’s location relative to the beach’s main entrance.


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