What You Can Do: Cold Stun Sea Turtles

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There are four common species of sea turtle in our waters: Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, Atlantic green, and leatherback. When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, around late October, sea turtles that do not migrate south for the winter months may become a victim of cold stunning.

According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Fisheries, the term cold stunning refers to the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Initial symptoms include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and possibly death.

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society monitors beaches with volunteers to look for these turtles to get them the help they need. Even if a sea turtle appears to be deceased, there is a chance it is in fact alive and can be saved. Whether you join us for beach monitoring workshop or simply walk the beach on your own, you can help save sea turtles in New York.

Most important, keep the NYS Stranding Hotline number: 631.369.9829 in your phone and call immediately if you find a sea turtle whether you think it is alive or deceased.

Tips for Beach Monitoring – Do a Beach Cleanup!

  • Dress in warm clothing and bring gloves, a reusable bag, and if possible, a tarp, plastic sled, or tote to transport animal or marine debris found on the beach

  • Bring marine debris data sheets. The ShowLatLong app can be used to record the GPS locations of turtles and marine debris, and the Tides Near Me app will help you determine the tides.

  • Walk after high tide, especially north-facing beach (although animals and marine debris can wash up on any tide)

  • Once at the beach record the time you start walking and time you finish. Record the distance covered (you can also look it up on Google Maps and estimate the distance)

  • Pick up marine debris while monitoring the beach for sea turtles

  • Share your data with AMCS! Beach location, time of walk, distance covered, weight of marine debris found (and forward data sheets), distance covered. Enter a beach cleanup online here.

  • Send data to the volunteers@amseas.org

  • If an animal is encountered, suspend beach cleanup!

What to Do When You Find a Sea Turtle

  • If at any point you encounter an animal, call the NYS Stranding Hotline immediately at 631.369.9829. (Always assume the Sea Turtle is alive if it has a head)

    • Be prepared with the best location

    • Your name and contact number

    • Size of turtle

  • After calling it in to the hotline:

    • Follow instruction received from the person running the call from the hotline

    • If the animal is in danger of washing back out and it is safe for you to move the animal, move it higher on the beach making sure it is orientated with its plastron (bottom of the animal) down and its flippers are free to move

    • Shelter the animal from the wind without touching the animal

    • Record the stranding location, time of encounter, (if you have thermometer take water and air temperature)

    • If possible, wait for the responders

    • If you cannot wait make sure the location is marked and visible so the responders can locate the animal

  • If asked to transport the animal to the beach access area:

    • Transport the animal with the plastron (bottom of the turtle) facing down

    • Keep the head facing away from you as you transport the animal (they can bite)

    • Watch for flipper movement as they can be strong and hit your hands when carrying the animal

    • Keep flippers free to move and record any activity (or lack of activity of the animal) before and during transport to beach access

Questions or want to join us as a volunteer? Email volunteers@amseas.org. Conservation starts with you!