It Takes A Village to Help A Sea Turtle!

First Turtle of 2011

Stranded Kemp's ridley turtle.  Photo by Bill Allen, MassAudubon.
Stranded Kemp's ridley turtle. Photo by Bill Allen, MassAudubon.

The recent cold snap and last weekend’s nor’easter have resulted in the first turtle stranding of the year.  This animal is currently in rehabilitation at the New England Aquarium.  Click here to read it’s story on the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog.

The Sea Turtle Stranding Network

MassAudubon staff rescuing a loggerhead turtle.
MassAudubon staff rescuing a loggerhead turtle.

The National Marine Life Center is a partner in the National Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.  Within the Northeast Region, there are several other partners, each with slightly different responsibilities and all working collaboratively to help cold-stunned sea turtles.  The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary provides beach response and triage.  The New England Aquarium provides initial medical evaluation and critical care.  And the National Marine Life Center, along with the NOAA Woods Hole Science Aquarium, the University of New England’s Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center at Biddeford, Maine, and the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in New York, provide on-going rehabilitative care.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversee the stranding network.

Even with all these organizations working in partnership to help, in years with a lot of strandings there isn’t enough rehabilitation space.  When this happens, turtles are sent to Georgia, Florida, or sometimes farther for care.  That’s why we’re so excited to open the first two pools in the National Marine Life Center’s new marine animal rehabilitation hospital!  Each pool has room for up to 9 juvenile Kemp’s ridley turtles, the most common species and age class to strand on Cape Cod.  Or, each pool could fit up to 3 juvenile loggerhead turtles, the second most common to strand around here.  We’re pleased to reopen our doors to sea turtle patients this season.  And, as we raise additional funds, we will put additional pools on-line so we can help more animals.

What To Do If You Find A Stranded Sea Turtle

In the meantime, with turtle stranding season upon us, it’s a good time to remind people what to do if you find a stranded sea turtle in Massachusetts.

~ Don’t put the turtle back in the water.  It needs medical attention.
~ Don’t remove the turtle from the beach.  Special permits and training are required to work with these endangered animals.

~ Move the turtle above the high tide line.
~ Cover the turtle with dry seaweed, to help it from getting even colder.
~ Mark the turtle’s location with a stick, buoy, or other piece of beach debris so MassAudubon’s rescue volunteers can find it.
~ CALL MassAudubon’s Rescue Hotline at 508-349-2615.  Leave a message with very specific directions and include your contact number so they can call you back if they have questions.

If you live outside of Massachusetts, please click here to find the name of your state sea turtle stranding network coordinator.

Thanks for caring about stranded sea turtles!

A Kemp's ridley turtle in rehabilitation at NMLC.
A Kemp's ridley turtle in rehabilitation at NMLC.