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Although it’s common for a few sea turtles every autumn to wash ashore local beaches weak and sick from being cold-stunned (when a sea turtle becomes hypothermic as water temperatures drop), the season for this this event to conclude usually occurs around Christmas. Now with winter ‘s arrival late this season, wayward hungry sea turtles have become hypothermic in January. The poor things have washed ashore immobilized and lifeless.
Sea turtles are reptiles and cold-blooded animals, which mean they cannot regulate their body temperature or make their own body heat even when it’s cold outside. Cold-blooded animals take on the temperature of their surroundings. When water temperatures reach near 50 degrees sea turtles become cold-stunned. Their blood circulation and other body functions slow down, and they are unable to swim or move. If not found soon and rescued, there is a high probability of death.
What many people don’t realize is that different sea turtle species call New York Harbor and nearby coastal waters home during the summer and early fall. The turtles often swim here to feed on fish, shellfish, algae, and jellies. Come October, many will swim south, but a few may become stranded and unable to swim as colder weather arrives and water temperatures cool down.
If you see a sea turtle that appears sick or injured, in New Jersey call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at 609-266-0538. In New York, call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation at 631-369-9829. These two organizations have the authority to help stranded or sick marine mammals and sea turtles. Wildlife experts with the help of trained volunteers will determine if an animal is in need of medical attention, needs to be moved from a populated area, or just needs time to rest.
LI Researchers Rush To Save ‘Cold-Stunned’ Sea Turtles Washed On Shore
January 7, 2016 9:43 PM
CBS New York News
RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –– As the weather has turned colder, dozens of endangered sea turtles have washed up on Long Island’s shores, suffering from what marine researchers call ‘cold stunning.’
“Basically it’s hypothermia,” Kim Durham, of the Foundation for Marine Preservation, said.
Nearly 40 sea turtles have washed up frozen in the last month, Durham said. Staffers managed to nurse 13 back to life, but 25 have died — including four turtles recently found overnight in the Long Island Sound, WLNY TV 10/55’s Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported.
“Unfortunately, these animals had likely been cast up on the beach last evening,” Durham said. “They were exposed to wind chill factors, so they were deceased on arrival.”
But staffers also celebrated saving one four-pound turtle last night, found almost lifeless along the shores of Mattituck.
“So that was also the miracle, of the fact that that it was alive, is that it was small,” Durham said.
Turtles are cold-blooded, causing their hearts beat rapidly as their body temperatures drop in colder conditions. According to marine experts, the unusually warm December temperatures kept the turtles from migrating south.
The Riverhead Foundation is advising the public to not touch these turtles if they are found, because it could potentially do more harm.
“We do not want people to start warming these animals up without professional medical attention, because if their body temperature is brought up too quickly, the turtles will go into thermal shock,” Durham said.
The Riverhead Foundation is asking anyone who finds a turtle to contact them on their 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829.
For more information on the Riverhead Foundation, click here.