Sea Turtles Around the Cape and Islands
Presented By: Bob Prescott, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Mass Audubon
For over 30 years, Mass Audubon has been researching and rescuing sea turtles off of the beaches of Cape Cod. Most people dont realize Massachusetts waters are the home of four species of sea turtles: leatherback, green, loggerhead and Kemps ridley sea turtles.
During the summer months, sea turtles get entangled, hit by boats or just confused and beach. We also collect live sightings data from boats, sailors and fishermen. Our waters seem to be very important developmental habitat for juvenile hard-shelled sea turtles, ridleys, greens and loggerheads. Local waters are also an important feeding area for the jellyfish eating leatherbacks.
In the late fall, an extraordinary phenomenon has occurred as evidenced by the presence of sea turtle bones in Native American middens. The Cape has long acted as a giant net trapping a variety of marine animals in the bay. Every year as ocean temperatures drop a cold wall forms preventing turtles from leaving the much warmer bay waters. As fall progresses the bay temperature rapidly crashes sending the turtles into a hypothermic, shock known as cold stunning, in which they become powerless to swim against the currents and are blown ashore by strong winds.