Loggerheads Leave Lasting Impression in 2016

More than eighty percent of the sea turtles that strand on Cape Cod in the fall are Kemp’s ridleys, the smallest sea turtle and the most endangered. Increasingly, more tropical green turtles are also finding their way into Cape Cod Bay. But the most imposing of the turtles that cold-stun in the fall are the loggerheads.

Rebecca Shoer with one of the 8 young loggerheads rescued this fall. In all, 36 loggerheads have been retrieved from Cape beaches. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

Rebecca Shoer with one of the 8 young loggerheads rescued this fall. In all, 50 loggerheads have been retrieved from Cape beaches. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

Loggerheads, even youngsters, can be a physical challenge. Over the years, Wellfleet Bay has brought in some very big ones, including a 200 pounder in 2013 and a nearly 300 pounder in 2014 that was actually a very rare (for Massachusetts) adult.

What you hope with a loggerhead is that when a call comes in, the turtle is not very far down the beach and that someone else has managed to drag it closer, like this energetic volunteer.

Kathy Keagul singlehandedly pulled this 40 pounder off the flats of First Encounter Beach up to the high tide line.

Kathy Keagul singlehandedly pulled the season’s first loggerhead– a 40 pounder– off the flats of First Encounter Beach, above the high tide line, then into the back of this car. The turtle is rehabbing at the South Carolina Aquarium.

That smooth-shelled, first-of-the-season loggerhead was a harbinger: we had a number of lovely little loggerheads this fall– turtles that were probably only 3 or 4 years old–with clean, bright shells and none of the encrusted barnacles and other freeloading critters usually found on older turtles. This is a classic example:

olivia-with-cc-346

Turtle 346 may not look very chipper here but it’s now rehabbing at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Florida.

Rescuing loggerheads can range in effort from some short-term hoisting and pulling to a multi-mile slog, often against a strong wind.  And when a team spends several hours pulling one off a very long beach (three-mile-long Great Island in Wellfleet comes to mind), rescuers can become emotionally invested in getting that animal to the New England Aquarium for critical medical care.

Turtle team member Karen Dourdeville takes a turn dragging this nearly 95 pound loggerhead from more than 2 miles out on Wellfleet's Great Island.

Turtle team member Karen Dourdeville takes a turn dragging this nearly 95 pound loggerhead from more than 2 miles out on Wellfleet’s Great Island. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

Sadly, this turtle did not survive its hypothermia. But turtle team leader Rebecca Shoer and teammate Olivia Bourque had a chance to save another loggerhead off Great Island under some punishing conditions: 20-degree temperatures and wind gusts of 40-50 miles per hour with a quickly-setting sun.

 

Rebecca haules the turtle cart loaded with an 80 pound loggerhead. Thanks to volunteer Bruce Hurter (dark figure ahead of Rebecca) the team was able to avoid the blast of the northwest wind by walking behind the dunes. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

Rebecca hauls an 80 pound loggerhead. Volunteer Bruce Hurter (walking ahead of her) not only found the turtle but heroically returned with the team to retrieve it and guided them along a back-of-the-dunes path less exposed to the painful wind. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

But despite the exposure to the icy water, the even colder beach, and a long trek back to the sanctuary, this turtle made it to the aquarium where it is now in rehab.

Rebecca says there is something about the loggerhead that is very striking and humbling. “We know so little about these animals, where they go, and what they do, that you can’t help but wish that they could give you just a glimpse into their world.”

Loggerhead rests head on borrowed winter gloves. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

Loggerhead rests its large head on borrowed winter gloves. (photo by Olivia Bourque)

 

2 thoughts on “Loggerheads Leave Lasting Impression in 2016

  1. Diane Silverstein

    Miss being a part of this important and rewarding work! Congrats to you all for your heroic efforts! WBWS rocks the sea turtle rescue world! 🐢

    Reply

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