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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Calm Interlude — 14 November 2001

Conditions moderated on Wednesday affording a light interlude in sea turtle strandings.  Volunteers continued to patrol seemingly endless miles of Cape Cod shoreline immediately after each high tide, but gentle southwest breezes brought temperatures approaching 50 degrees and slowed the turtle onslaught to a trickle.  The forecast calls for several days of mild weather ahead, as we wait impatiently for the next storm.

Two ridleys road the waves onto Brewster beaches and another came ashore north of First Encounter in Eastham.  At each location we begin with a field assessment of the cold-stunned animal, then collect environmental data on the site.  At Ellis Landing, I recovered a 8.75-inch Kemp's ridley found by a local volunteer who moved her above the high water mark and covered her with a layer of seaweed for protection from the elements.  She responded quite well to stimuli and once in the jeep, she waltzed around for an inspection tour.  In other words, she was in good shape for a cold-stunned sea turtle.  So, I wasn't too surprised to discover she had an internal body temperature over 56 degrees.

The ridley from Eastham proved equally spry for a mid-November morning on Cape Cod.  Her body temperature registered above 50 degrees, too.  The other Brewster turtle, discovered by a resident near Winslow Landing, had sadly already entered rigor.

This morning we emptied the turtle recovery room at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  The large loggerhead — 91.2 pounds, you may recall — had partied overnight and crawled all over the triage center.  Far from cold-stunned, she seemed raring to go; so she went to the New England Aquarium in Boston with the last two ridleys from yesterday as company.

Since they wouldn't get to Boston until midday tomorrow at the earliest, we cleaned and “lubed” the two ridleys rescued from the beach today — to prevent dehydration.  They should rest comfortably in the dark without a bullying loggerhead to keep them up all night.

As a quick recap of the stranding season which began on 7 November, we've recovered a total of 21 sea turtles: 19 Kemp's ridleys, 1 green and 1 loggerhead. With the help of dedicated and tireless volunteers, we were able to rescue 19 of these turtles alive from the beach. While their long-term survival and return to the wild still face a host of challenges, nothing can be done for these endangered animals if we don't get off the beach and out of those life-threatening conditions first. And that's our mission.