The current sea turtle stranding season has not only set a new record but has demonstrated the power of community: our trained and tireless volunteers, our incredibly generous neighbors, and the global support of so many people who followed this story from afar and wished they could be here walking a beach or “swimming” a turtle in the rehab pools!
It started, as always, with our intrepid beach walkers.
With a strong west-northwest wind, the turtles started to arrive. Over the week-end of November 15-16, we were amazed to get 50 turtles in 24 hours. A week later, we had 157 in one day.
On the first of our one hundred-plus turtle days, the call went out for more (lots more) banana boxes and towels.
Two days later, our front entry was a parking lot of turtles. Five hundred turtles had come through the door since the start of the season.
There were too many turtles for the New England Aquarium to accommodate and suddenly we were in the sea turtle rehab business. We asked around for kiddie pools and within hours we had donations. Aquarium veterinarians Leslie Neville and Kathy Tuxbury ( a Wellfleet Bay alumna!) gave a crash course to our staff and volunteers on how to “swim” turtles.
Swimming turtles quickly became the most popular job. The goal of swimming is to warm turtles up slowly, to get them moving a bit, and to assess their conditions.
Our volunteers put in extremely long hours, among them veterinarian Kelly Sattman who we’re pretty sure lived at the sanctuary for about a week!
And there are so many others to thank… our good friend Krill Carson who practically quarantined herself in our wet lab taking measurements, weights, and pictures of every turtle that came through. Our colleagues Betsy Ryder and Diane Silverstein worked the phones relentlessly, arranging for drivers, beach walkers, veterinary supplies, ice, towels. Local businesses couldn’t do enough for us. Our Facebook page has a list of them.
And we can’t forget the lady who at the height of the turtle insanity decided someone needed to organize food for the troops. Thank you, Sharon Blair!
The days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday have been quiet on the beaches. Our turtle total remains at 975 with an estimated survival rate of 75%. The only question now is whether we will have another wave of strandings. Loggerheads, larger sea turtles, typically strand later in the fall.
In the meantime, we hope everyone enjoys whatever down time remains.