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Cold Stunned Sea Turtle Found Dead on Shelter Island

The public is asked to report any sightings.

This cold stunned sea turtle, found earlier in November, survived.
This cold stunned sea turtle, found earlier in November, survived.
It was a sad ending for one cold stunned sea turtle that was found washed ashore on Shelter Island Wednesday.

According to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, the sea turtle was discovered at 8 a.m., at the end of Bootleggers Alley.               

The turtle was identified as an Atlantic Green sea turtle, measuring approximately one foot in length and weighing five pounds.

According to the Foundation, the turtle is believed to have been washed ashore with the high tide at 11:30 p.m. the night before; the exposure to the wind chill throughout the night brought the turtle’s internal temperature to below 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

The turtle was transported to the Riverhead Foundation’s sea turtle hospital, where it was determined to have died. 

The turtle was the second found in a few days in that area, Foundation members said.

The Riverhead Foundation has asked that any sightings of cold stunned turtles washed ashore should be immediately reported to the 631-369-9829, a 24-hour hot line.  

Not all cold stunned sea turtles meet a tragic fate: Earlier in November, The Riverhead Foundation reported that it had rescued the first cold stunned sea turtles of the season. 

According to the foundation's Facebook page, the first, a juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — the most endangered sea turtle species— was found near Davis Beach in Fire Island on Oct. 28. The second, also a Kemp's Ridley turtle, was rescued Monday in East Hampton. 

Each year, the Foundation rescues numerous sea turtles that are found on the East End's beaches stunned by the cold — last year, by December, the foundation had already rescued 22 sea turtles. 

The Foundation, which nurses the turtles back to health, releasing them in Hampton Bays in the summer, urges community members to be on the look-out for cold stunned turtles. 

In most cases, Kimberly Durham of the Foundation, said, the turtles may appear as if they are dead, but they aren't — they are actually suffering from profound cold stunning otherwise known as hypothermia.

In addition, the foundation provided the following information regarding stunned turtles:

  • Do not place the turtle in water.
  • Do not attempt to warm the turtle. Rapid warming may cause irreversible damage to a cold-stunned reptile. Time is a factor in proper rehabilitation.
  • Become a trained sea turtle beach patroller by attending one of the sea turtle cold stun lectures or by calling the Riverhead Foundation at 631-369-9840 and talking to one of the biologists.
  • When you walk on the beach, search the entire beach from the dune line to the water line, check the water for floating turtles, look through the high tide line for turtles buried beneath the dried seaweed.
  • You can patrol at any time, but the chances are greater for finding a turtle if you patrol after high tide, particularly after storms or extremely cold weather.
  • If you have to leave the area before the rescue team arrives, clearly mark the location of the turtle so that it can be quickly located.

The Foundation also offers informational lectures on cold stunned sea turtles. Click here for more information. 


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