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

Comings and Goings and More Comings — 21 November 2001

Weather has moderated; winds have shifted without a sustained blow from any single direction to drive turtles ashore.  Yet, after a three-day hiatus from the 17th through the 19th, ridleys began appearing on beaches yesterday.  Two turtles, a live one in Eastham and a DOA in Truro, were recovered.  So, patrols were intensified today and yielded six more Kemp’s ridleys, five alive and active, one DOA.

This morning volunteer Pat Engstrom rescued the tiniest sea turtle of the year, a Kemp’s ridley less than 20 centimeters long and weighing only 1100 grams, from an Eastham beach just north of First Encounter.  With 40.6-degree air temperature and 42.8-degree water temperature, we shouldn’t have been surprised that this ridley’s internal body temperature had dropped to 42.7 degrees.

We bundled this morning’s turtles with one overnighter from Truro for quick transport to the New England Aquarium.  They are placed in individual boxes, lined with soft, warm towels to protect them during the two-hour trip to Boston.

But the triage center at the Sanctuary didn’t stay empty too long.  On the afternoon high tide two more ridleys surfaced.  One, a 9.25-inch turtle came ashore at Great Hollow in Truro.  Despite seemingly endless published warnings, some folks had found the animal and pushed it back into the bay.  Dennis Murley, naturalist and sea turtle coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, waded into the frigid water and rescued the critter from near certain hypothermia.

On the more enlightened side of the equation stand Bill and Ann Allan (and friend).  They walk regular sea turtle patrol and had been disappointed — but not discouraged — to find not a single animal yet.  So, when they were patrolling the southernmost section of Skaket beach in Orleans and saw a Kemp’s ridley struggling in the surf, flailing its flippers against the incoming tide, nothing could thwart an aggressive rescue.  They stormed into the bay and pulled the 2.9-kilogram turtle to safety, covering it with seaweed and marking the spot with gaudy colored flotsam.  Calling the Sanctuary via cell phone, they stayed with the turtle to ensure its speedy recovery.

With eight turtles in the last 36 hours, the 2001 cold-stunned stranding summary reads: 32 sea turtles recovered from Cape Cod beaches — 30 Kemp’s ridleys, 1 green, and 1 loggerhead.