Almost 190 Sea Turtles Found Frozen To Death Off Cape Cod

Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Almost 190 dead sea turtles were found frozen off the coast of Cape Cod Friday after low out of season temperatures struck the northeast US and froze sea turtles making their way back south for the winter.

The low temperatures came from a once in a lifetime system of gale force winds, high tides and cold temperatures which caused the migrating turtles to become incapacitated by the time they were found off the Cape.

According to Mass Audubon Director Bob Prescot, a total of 227 cold-stunned turtles were recovered from the Gulf of Maine since Wednesday, but only 54 lived. Mass Audubo, which is the largest nature conservation nonprofit in Massachusetts, regularly patrols the beaches this time of year looking for cold-stunned turtles.

Prescott said that while the organization will help facilitate tests on the turtles to determine the exact cause of death, the turtles did “essentially freeze.” Thus far, Mass Audubon has found over 400 dead sea turtles this season.

Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

According to researchers, the timing of the species’ migration has only increased the chances of turtles getting frozen. Back in 1990s, sea turtles used to arrive to the Cape Cod area in October but now, they have been coming to shore around November when the water is much colder.

Due to warming global ocean temperatures, turtles migratory habits are changing right before our eyes and when cold weather strikes, it can put the sea turtles life in severe jeopardy.

Turtles travel thousands of miles annually, traversing the globe eventually for food and eventually landing back to their breeding to make way for the next generation of turtles.
Sea turtle conservation in recent years have helped the reptiles start to recover in total numbers but their life’s are still at severe risk from a combination of overfishing, drift nets, climate change, coastal development and boats traffic.

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