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

Full House ó 20 December 2001

Astounding!  As of this evening, 88 sea turtles have “cold stunned” on Cape Cod beaches ó the third largest stranding event in our 22 years of historical records.  The distribution: 84 Kemp's ridleys, 2 loggerheads and 2 greens.  But most astounding of all, the delayed arrival of winter in the Northeast means we are still recovering live ridleys from the beach, three yesterday and another today.

More ominously for those who must prepare for strandings yet-to-come, delayed winter has meant that we have not begun the loggerhead phase of this yearís event.  In an average season, we see about 40% as many loggerheads as ridleys.  So, we might anticipate another 30 loggerheads (25 to 50 pounders hitting the beach during the holidays.  Now thatís a present even Santa Claus canít stuff in his sack.

For the nonce, seven ridleys came ashore yesterday and three more today.  As expected, their sizes are now larger, averaging around 12 inches carapace length and 3.5 kilograms weight, like the turtle below taking a deep breath in the Sanctuary recovery room after its rescue from an Eastham beach on Wednesday evening.  It arrived with an internal body temperature of 46.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  Subsequent rescues wonít be so fortunate.  Winds are blowing tonight out of the west at 15 to 20 knots with temperatures falling into the low 30s.

Updating our holiday guests in this potpourri roundup, Darth ó the large male snapping turtle ó soiled his container shortly after checking into the Connemara tree house for a long winterís nap.  So, yesterday I begged his indulgence to remove him and freshen his waterbed.  Thereís no question about it.  Darth is not only squat, dark and handsome, but he has a winsome personality that no wimpy tropical sea turtle can match.  In this up-close and personal look, you get a pretty good sense of the fun and excitement he brings to the holiday season.

The other visitor, Turtle #1195, is a mature female diamondback terrapin who is recovering from a cracked shell after an unfortunate encounter with a dredger in Wellfleet harbor.  She seems to have adjusted nicely in her heated tank, but has yet to resume eating.