Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kemp's Ridleys are Still Washing Up on Long Island's Shores

Chris Zurcher’s summary of daily news headlines (subscribe here) pointed me to this story, in the Times Long Island section, about Kemp’s ridley sea turtles being cold-stunned on the east end of the island. Twenty four have been found this year (about twice as many as usual); 12 were dead, eight are behing rehabilitated. One of the odd things is that while they clearly spend time in Long Island Sound, they wash up only on Long Island beaches, never in Connecticut.

Kemp’s ridleys are the rarest of the world’s sea turtles and two decades ago were considered doomed. My buddy Sam Wells puts in some volunteer time at the sea turtle rescue center (which I think is this place), on South Padre Island in Texas, and I’m hoping that when he gets a minute he might update us on the status of the Kemp’s ridley. I wrote a long chapter about Kemp’s ridleys for my book but then cut it. It’s here, for those interested in more background.

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Blogger Sam said...

Had on of the best nesting seasons in many years, with 22 Kemps and one loggerhead averaging over 90 eggs per clutch; one nest was infertile. Except for the one infertile nest, 100% of the hatchlings were released from the beach between April 24 and September 2 - our turtle nesting season is basically May through August.

The January, 2007 cold stunning down here were all juvenile green turtles, which mostly nest on the Yucatan but live in the bay waters here in southern Texas (Laguna Madre, a large hyper-saline bay). Over 130 were rescues and about 100 survived, not bad for some very cold, slippery work. Interesting note: about 30 green turtles passed plastic grocery bags, which nearly killed them (plastic and repiratory infection actually killed most, not the cold water itself).

I'm sorry to hear about the Kemps in Long Island Sound. They usually hang out in warmer waters but must periodically come up for air, and I bet that stunned them ... plus, they might have migrated where relatively warm current water was lacking. Remember, it is not the cold that gets them, but the rate at which the water temperature drops ... plus all the plastic bags and infected waters.

My hat goes off the the volunteers, watermen, sea rescue coordinators, and good people who helped some survive. You might publish the telephone numbers in your post, Tom, as most people have no clue what to do if they see one!
-sam wells

11:14 AM  

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