Record number of sea turtles becoming stranded on Long Island shores

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Marine wildlife experts are trying to figure out why a record number of turtles are becoming stranded on the Island this winter.

It's usually around Thanksgiving when the staff at Riverhead’s New York Marine Rescue Center see their first so-called "cold-stunned" turtle.

This year, the first one came in early November. Since then, 85 have washed up ashore, setting a record number for the season.

Experts still aren't exactly sure why.

“We know that we're losing that season. It's going summer to winter really fast. We’re losing that fall, and that fall is actually cue for these turtles to start migrating out of the Sound,” says Maxine Montello, rescue program director of the New York Marine Rescue Center.

For workers and volunteers at the rescue center, it's meant a very busy winter with dozens of calls coming in.

“My very first day, we got three. I thought that was kind of ‘wow, we're really in it now.’ The following few days, we got the 10 turtles in one day and you're excited for every call you get. It's another chance to save a life,” says Sadie Logozio of the rescue center.

Around late September, sea turtles start leaving Long Island waters for warmer waters down south, like the Carolinas and Florida. But some get trapped in the Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay or some of the Island’s many creeks and rivers. Eventually, they become disoriented by the cold water and wash up on shore.

“The animal becomes buoyant during the cold-stun season and they come to the surface and the winds are actually pushing the animal to the beach,” Montello says.

Once on the beach, it's even colder and their chances of survival shrink.

“Usually about half of them come in deceased already,” Logozio says.

Those that do survive undergo months of treatment at the rescue center and then are released back into the water in summer.

Experts say it's never normal for a sea turtle to be on shore. They encourage any resident that may find turtles on the shores to call the rescue center.

 

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