BEACON TRANSCRIPT – When you think about sea turtles, you probably don’t think about teams of volunteers walking down beaches and picking up the animals as they drift ashore. Well, you probably are now. Anyway, this is what has been going on in the Cape Cod Bay, as warm weather prolongs sea turtle stranding season.
The rescue operations are led by the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and it employs mostly volunteers; however, despite the prolonged season, the people over the Sanctuary also claim some good news.
Last year, the total number of stranded turtles was an abysmal 1,242, and many of them were found dead due to prolonged exposure to the icy waters.
This year, however, only 450 were found so far, and despite a very strange day when 120 turtles were found, the daily number of encountered turtles rarely exceeds a dozen.
After collecting the stranded animals, the volunteers take them down to the New England Aquarium in Quincy for medical attention. They will remain there until the water turns warm enough for them to be released.
Because of the very warm temperatures this year, the turtles are strangely in even bigger trouble than in previous years, and the stranding season will probably extend well into January.
The problem is that usually, the cold waters this time of year stop the turtles from adventuring; however, due to the increasingly warm temperatures of the bay, more and more turtles are heading north, hitting freezing waters, and then coming back towards the bay.
They get dazed or even sick with pneumonia and other similar illnesses because of the cold water, and they then drift ashore, where they will most likely die if nobody takes care of them.
Because of the lack of a north wind that would push the turtles ashore and finally end the stranding season, there are probably still over 500 turtles left to be collected.
The good news, however, is that the survival rate of the animals has increased compared to that of previous years, coming in at 67%. The experts do suggest, though, that the number could drop in the following days or weeks.
The turtles usually suffer from hypothermia and septicemia when they are found, and without quick medical attention, they generally died. This happened to one of the rarest sea turtles in the world on December 12th.
So, the volunteers have no choice but to continue their efforts well into this new year in the hopes of saving a few dozen more, perhaps even a couple of hundreds turtle lives.
Image source: Wikimedia