Each year cold stunned sea turtles wash ashore on Cape Cod beaches in November and December. Most of the turtles are juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempi), they are usually between 2 and 5 years old and are the rarest sea turtles in the world. Other species collected, although less frequent, are loggerhead (Carretta carretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) sea turtles. The dropping temperatures and intense storms trap the turtles inside the arm of the Cape prohibiting them from migrating to warmer waters. Once the water temperature dips the turtles become lethargic, they can not longer fight the heavy wind and waves and end up stranding on the beach. Immobile turtles would die from exposure if they are not retrieved from the beach and treated at an equipped facility. The rescued turtles have an 80 percent survival rate once collected.
An average of 90 turtles typically strand on Cape Cod. So far in 2014 over 1300 turtles have washed on Cape Cod beaches from Sandwich to Provincetown. Wind direction earlier in the season was depositing all the turtles on the outer Cape beaches, giving us a big goose egg on SNK, until Sunday. The wind Sunday and Monday was right onshore depositing 20 turtles and Monday there were 52. Turtles are still coming ashore every tide cycle although not in those huge numbers. It is important that the ORV beach stays closed during this crucial time allowing staff to collect the turtles. If you are walking on the beach and locate a turtle cover them with seaweed, mark the location with some debris, and call one of numbers listed below. All help is appreciated. It is a rare opportunity to get such an up-close and personal experience with these rare sea creatures and it is easy to see why everyone involved is excited this time of year. Stay tuned for additional information.
Sandy Neck Stranding Contacts
Sandy Neck Gatehouse
Marine and Environmental Affairs
Seals and Dolphins
IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue
Wellfleet Audubon Society
Coastal Wildlife Alliance