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

Magical — 4 December 2001

If animal rescues were pure science and conservation, then each event would elicit the same emotional feel.  But, in all honesty, there is something almost mystical about rescuing a sea turtle at the moment of sunset, when long shadows become mysterious shapes and the beach is transformed into a magical place.

The call came tonight at 4:15.  A fellow exercising his dog at Easthamís Sunken Meadow discovered a turtle inching its way back toward the receding bay.  Tossed ashore cold-stunned with the early afternoon high tide, this Kempís ridley had warmed in the bright 55-degree sunshine and started to crawl back to the sea.  Not quite warm enough, though, to move fast enough to catch the ebbing tide.

At 2.6 kilograms and almost 11 inches long, it measures about average size for this yearís ridley strandings to date.  And with the last two weeks of mild weather, the turtles weíve recovered the last couple of days have been more active than those we saw at the beginning of the stranding event in early November.

This morning a park ranger from the Cape Cod National Seashore found a dead ridley on Bound Brook Island in north Wellfleet.  And last evening, Dennis Murley recovered “the liveliest turtle of the year” from Robbins Hill in Brewster.  It was nearly a twin to this eveningís ridley, less than a centimeter shorter, a centimeter wider, and a 100 grams heavier.

These two did show an interesting difference, though, in algae pattern.  The Robbins Hill turtle (below left) displays the normal “halo” at the top center of its carapace where little or no algae growth is seen, while the rest of the shell is covered.  In contrast, the Sunken Meadow ridley has a reverse halo, with algae only found on the top center of its carapace and the rest of the shell clean.

With todayís rescues, the 2001 cold-stunned stranding count stands at 39 turtles: 36 Kempís ridleys, 2 loggerheads, and 1 green.