More sea turtles stunned by the weather have washed ashore on Cape Cod this week, following a cold spell that came with several inches of snow in the area.
About 57 turtles — both loggerheads and Kemp’s ridleys — have been found since the start of the year, said Bob Prescott, director of Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Approximately 25 of those animals were alive and sent to the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy for treatment.
The recent rescues bring the total number of turtles recovered since the fall to more than 500, the second-highest number per season in history.
Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead turtles are both endangered species that come to the waters of New England to feed in warm weather. As the water cools, they attempt to migrate south, but many become stranded by the hook of the Cape.
The colder it gets, the more hazardous conditions become for the animals.
Temperatures dipped into the teens on Cape Cod for the first time this season Monday and Tuesday. The cold, combined with heavy winds from the north, sent an unusual number of turtles ashore.
“We had a couple of frozen ridleys,” Prescott said. “When they came up on the beach, they were literally frozen solid.”
Rescuing live turtles in January — let alone this many — is unheard of, he said.
“We often have turtles that come up in January but they’re almost always dead,” he said. “This year, for the first time, we’re getting live ridleys . . . we are getting live loggerheads.”
Teams from the sanctuary and Sandy Neck Beach Park embarked on a quest Tuesday to recover turtles affected by the cold
Nina Coleman, manager at Sandy Neck, described the rescues as a “Cape-wide effort” to save as many of the reptiles as possible.
“I’m really, really happy with the condition of the turtles we were able to get off our beach,” she said. “We were on high alert, we knew we were going to have high winds.”
Coleman said a group of five people spearheaded the search, driving down Sandy Neck beach and sorting through foam to find turtles.
Another team gave immediate care to any living animals, and a group of volunteers took them to Quincy. “It’s quite a network,” Coleman said.
The wind-whipped foam on the beach, she said, is both a blessing and a curse. It lets rescuers know that turtles might be in the area, but also makes them hard to find.
“Foam is one of those things we’re actually looking for. We know when we have a foamy beach day . . . those are the variables that bring us turtles,” she said. “The big problem with the foam is it actually can cover the animals.”
The biggest turtle found Tuesday, a nearly 90-pound loggerhead, was covered in foam.
“It looked like a big, turtle-shaped pile of foam,” she said.