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Riverhead Foundation For Marine Research And Preservation Preparing For Cold Stun Season

Sydney A. Braat

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle in the rehabilitation tank at the Riverhead Foundation's hospital facility, located within the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. (Photo: Joe Dlhopolsky)

"As the only organization in New York that responds to sick or injured marine mammals and sea turtles, the coming cold months become a busy season for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP)," remarked Allison DePerte, Office Administrator for the RFMRP.  "During the 2015 cold stun sea turtle season, we recovered over 40 turtles from November 2015 through January 2016."

To help inform the community about how we can save sea turtles, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation is holding its free annual Cold Stun Sea Turtle Lecture series, which will conclude on Saturday, November 19th at 2 p.m. The last lecture will be held at Fire Island Wilderness Center (Fire Island National Seashore, County Road 46, Shirley).

Just like humans, sea turtles try to avoid the cold waters as much as possible. They usually spend their summers in the waters near our homes on Long Island, and then migrate south to warmer waters in the late fall. If sea turtles do not migrate south, they generally succumb to cold-stunning or hypothermia. That's where RFMRP steps in.

"Because they are reptiles, they rely on the water temperature to regulate their body temperature," explained DePerte. "When the water temperatures fall below 50F, a sea turtle's biological systems begin to shut down, so they stop swimming and feeding, and are left at the mercy of the waves. These animals wash up on our local shores, and if found in time, our trained biologists can warm them slowly and revive them." 

If you ever spot a stranded sea turtle, the RFMRP urges you to call their Rescue Hotline at 631-369-9829, which allows the public to report strandings of sea turtles, as well as seals, dolphins or whales, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

"All of the sea turtles found in New York waters are federally protected species, and the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, a frequently encountered turtle in our area, is an endangered species," said DePerte. "It is so important that we are able to recover turtles as soon as possible and get them medical attention that we organize the Cold Stun Beach Patrol Program every year."

Help RFMRP take care of our aquatic wildlife and patrol your beaches often. Reporting sightings of sea turtles, seals, dolphins, or whales can be vital in winter rescue efforts.

"Every minute counts for these protected and endangered animals," said DePerte.


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