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

Ninety-four and Counting on Thanksgiving Eve
— 27 November 2002

A mild nor’easter blew rain and spit snow onto the Cape this Thanksgiving Eve.  North- northeast winds over 20 knots pounded surf against bay beaches and continued to drive cold-stunned sea turtles on shore.  The latest wave of stranding left forty-one turtles on the beach since 2:00 a.m. Sunday — more than three- fourths alive and kicking like this 7.25 pound Kemp’s ridley rescued from North Truro.

Only ridleys and greens so far this season.  We haven’t recovered a single loggerhead, but bay water is still a bit too warm for those massive critters to become cold stunned and helpless.  But the greens . . . well, this year has already become the all-time record season for green sea turtles on the Cape.  This less than 10-inch long beauty was the sixth green to be stranded in 2002.  Even during 1999 when 277 sea turtles stranded, we only saw five greens.

This evening two more live ridleys were recovered on the high tide, bringing the year-to-date total to 94 cold-stunned sea turtles.  Eighty-eight have been ridleys, added to the aforementioned six greens.  One of these last two proved a real hoot.  Never before have we found a supposedly cold-stunned sea turtle with enough gumption to try to bite the hands that rescued her.  Well, even with a 46.2°F internal body temperature, this sweetheart snapped at everything that moved within her field of vision.

After I got too close with my recording pen and she managed to grasp it tightly in her jaws, life in the Sanctuary’s recovery room became much more tolerable.  She seemed to purr like a contented kitten.

The wind is still howling.  Snow showers come and go.  So, the gang will assemble tomorrow morning at 5:30 for a pre-dawn sweep of Brewster and Orleans.  Can you think of a better way to welcome Turkey Day at the farthest end of the known turtle universe?