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First ‘cold-stunned’ sea turtles of season rescued

Sea turtle volunteer Tim O’Brien (left), with Seth Black, Brooke Mazzarella, Lena Flaherty, and Camryn Mazzarella, who found the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Brewster Saturday morning.KIM NOVINO/MASS AUDUBON

The sudden onslaught of cold air late in the week didn’t stun only land dwellers, as Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary reported its first sea turtle rescues of the year Saturday.

Two “cold-stunned” juvenile Kemp’s ridley turtles were found Saturday, one at Ellis Landing Beach in Brewster and one at Boat Meadow Beach in Eastham, according to Jenette Kerr, an Audubon spokeswoman. And a third was found Sunday on Great Island in Wellfleet, she said.

The ridleys, the world’s most endangered sea turtles, were taken to the New England Aquarium’s animal care facility in Quincy for medical care and rehabilitation.


In addition, a green turtle was found dead Saturday morning at Eastham’s South Sunken Meadow Beach, she said. Green turtles have a more tropical range than Kemp’s ridleys and loggerheads, she said.

“Because we’ve had some very big years [for strandings], we have taken far more preparation,” Kerr said in a brief phone interview Sunday morning. “We’ve been ready for weeks now.”

The stranding of cold-stunned sea turtles happens every year, as turtles become trapped by the Cape’s hook shape after summer feeding and fail to migrate south before waters cool, according to Kerr.

The timing of the first rescue, roughly average, she said, came weeks later than the first strandings last year, which came unusually early on Oct. 22.

Although most of Cape Cod Bay’s water temperatures are still above 50 degrees, the temperature at which turtles experience the hypothermia-like “cold-stunning,” the cold air and high winds Friday and Saturday cooled shallower areas to dangerous levels for some of the smaller turtles, like the plate-sized ridleys rescued Saturday, Kerr said.

With cold weather returning Tuesday, more cold-stunned turtles are expected to wash up this week, she said.

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.