Tag Archives: Wellfleet Bay

Rescuing Sea Turtles on Cape Cod

As winter approaches, the water temperature of Cape Cod Bay slowly drops, and sea turtles should make their way south to warmer tropical waters. However, each year since the late 1970s, some juvenile turtles do not make the journey in time. Trapped by the hook of the Cape, the turtles become disoriented. When the water reaches about 50° by mid-November, the turtles are too cold to eat, drink, or swim, and become “cold-stunned.”

Maureen Duffy, a member of the Wellfleet Bay Turtle Team, monitors a rescued Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.

And every year, staff and volunteers from Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary patrol the beaches, rescuing these turtles. This year is no different. Since the season began earlier this fall, Wellfleet has encountered more than 630 cold stunned sea turtles.

During the Thanksgiving freeze, when temperatures plummeted overnight, more than 220 endangered sea turtles stranded on Cape Cod. Wellfleet Bay’s dedicated team of rescuers patrolled the beaches day and night in search of cold-stunned turtles trapped in the surf, and had to deal with the full force of the weather for more than 48 hours straight.

Of the 220, only approximately 50 were alive when rushed to the wildlife sanctuary’s turtle intake unit for weighing, measuring, and assessment. Volunteer drivers were lined up to transport the turtles to the Animal Care Center in Quincy operated by the New England Aquarium, Mass Audubon’s partner in this important rescue-and-rehabilitation mission.

Typically, cold-stunned turtles rescued in November are still alive with a very good chance of recovery. But the unusual cold-snap produced conditions more common in late December when most of the turtles that strand are dead.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Director Bob Prescott, who has been monitoring sea turtles for more than 35 years, notes climate change is causing more and more strandings. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the water in the Gulf of Maine was too cold for sea turtles. But warming ocean temperatures have allowed sea turtles to enter the Gulf of Maine and some cannot get out before the water temperature drops.

There’s still several months left in the season and the team on the Cape will be hard at work. Be sure to follow Wellfleet Bay on Facebook for the latest information. You can also learn more about sea turtles and how to support the Sea Turtle Rescue Project.

Wellfleet Bay Educator to Present at Boston Sea Rovers on March 9

Amy FleischerWellfleet Bay’s Education Coordinator Amy Fleischer wants to know: What ignites a person’s passion to become a lifelong learner, active conservationist, or part of the scientific process?

For Amy, as a young child, it was Dr. Eugenie Clark—a pioneering female scientist known as “The Shark Lady.” Dr. Clark is world-famous for having founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, among other accomplishments, and was a marine biology professor at the University of Maryland for 32 years. Four species of fish have been named after her and she received the esteemed Explorers Club Medal.

So you can image Amy’s delight when, in 2009, she joined Dr. Clark on a research expedition to the Flores Sea in Indonesia to study a new species of sand diver fish, Trichonotus elegans.

“Dr. Clark’s driving curiosity and passion for the ocean blasted through the boundaries that existed for female scientists, and paved the way for me,” explains Amy. “To be able to learn first-hand from her, to dive with her, was one of the highlights of my life.”

tricky fishOn March 9, Amy will present Dive into Science: In Search of “Tricky Fish” in the Flores Sea with Dr. Eugenie Clark at the Boston Sea Rovers’ Annual Clinic in Danvers. In addition, she will lead a hands-on sea turtle activity for children at the show.

The Boston Sea Rovers is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of the marine environment and is one of the oldest and most distinguished underwater groups in America. This year’s clinic will include presentations and films from some of the top marine life experts, filmmakers, and photographers (including National Geographic Photographer Brian Skerry).

“As a science teacher, I want to create these connections that help to motivate action, whether that means inspiring people to work in the sciences or to be an informed citizen,” says Amy.

Come find what inspires you! To learn more about the Boston Sea Rovers event and to purchase tickets, visit www.bostonsearovers.com.

Why The Bear Went Over the… Moraine! (Updated)

American Black Bear via U.S. Dept. of TransportationThis past Memorial Day, scores of mainlanders made their annual three day weekend pilgrimage to Cape Cod. There was the usual holiday weekend chatter about the perennially popular topics of traffic back ups and weather, but this year, the biggest topic of conversation at the start of summer was… the bear!

As a steady stream of travelers made their way over the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, it appears that a lone male black bear also either swam the canal or braved the bridges (wildlife experts favor the canal explanation) and began heading east on Cape Cod, possibly in search of a mate. Cape communities have done a great job of protecting open space, so the bear had a natural travel corridor through the pitch pine-scrub oak woods and adjacent residential neighborhoods, leaving behind tracks and a curious mixture of amazement, amusement, and panic in its wake.

The bear became an instant celebrity, tweeting and amassing more than 1,500 Facebook “friends.” After moving through the upper and mid Cape by mid-week, it headed to the Outer Cape where Bob Prescott and the staff of Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary kept an eye out for the bear as they monitored hatching plovers and diamondback terrapins.

Eventually the bear turned up in Provincetown and then turned back south where it was captured by state wildlife officials for relocation to Central Massachusetts. And so ended the bear’s two-week “vacation” on Cape Cod that attracted as much media attention as a Presidential visit to the Vineyard.

Wildlife experts report that this is only the second black bear documented in Southeastern Massachusetts in the past 50 years. Now common in central and western Massachusetts, black bears had been nearly extirpated in Massachusetts half a century ago but their numbers are increasing, and bear sitings in eastern Massachusetts are becoming more common. Similar stories can be told of wild turkeys and fishers, who have made huge comebacks due to the increase in forested land in Massachusetts and are now both regular visitors in the woods outside my window. But I’m still waiting for a bear!

UPDATE 6/27/12: Looks like our pal, the Cape Cod bear has a real hankering for the coast. The very same black bear that was relocated from the Outer Cape to Central Massachusetts was recently caught heading east. This time, he made it as far as Brookline, where he survived a 80-foot fall from a tree after being tranquilized. State wildlife officials say they will take him farther west … who knows where he will turn up next!

Image via U.S. Department of Transportation