While you’ll find a variety of marine and wildlife on and off of Cape Cod, there’s an ongoing effort to rescue one particular variety in need. Unfortunately, more and more sea turtles have turned up in Cape Cod Bay, and they’re having a hard time making it back out again.
Often, locals and even tourists will spot the stranded turtles around early November when the water starts turning colder. The sea turtles first make their way to the area during the warmer months. Oftentimes it’s the juvenile turtles that get confused and end up going too far when they head north. The mistake is fine while the water is warm, for the sea turtles have an endless supply of crabs to eat. It’s when the weather starts cooling down again in the fall that the turtles get confused.
The confusion comes due to the fact that the turtles have to swim north, then around the Provincetown tip to go south again. Some of the turtles aren’t able to figure this out on their own. By November, the water has cooled to around 50 degrees and sometimes the turtles end up “cold-stunned”. In other words, the turtles are left immobile, confused and often wash up on shore.
The turtles in this situation need immediate help. Rescue organizations count on the public to help spot the stranded turtles. Volunteers are called upon every year to help alert the Wellfleet Audubon Sanctuary and Turtle Rescue League.
As the tide crests, this is the time you’ll probably spot stranded sea turtles. You’ll want to move the sea turtle above high tide line, and then cover the turtle with eelgrass or seaweed to keep it warm while you call in the experts for help. The Turtle hotline is 508-349-2615 ext. 104.
The influx of stranded sea turtles has continued to climb in numbers, unfortunately. Last fall and winter there were a record 1,200 sea turtles that came ashore in Cape Cod. That’s more than 400 turtles above the previous record from 2012. While some of the turtles unfortunately don’t make it, about 80 percent of the turtles do survive, thanks to the help of volunteers and experts in the area.
The Endangered Species Act protects the turtles. It’s illegal to purposely catch, kill or harass them. That’s why it is so important that everyone works together to help find the stranded turtles and help nourish them back to life in the wild.