The first cold-stunned sea turtle of the season was rescued from Peconic Bay in Southampton last week and has since been receiving treatment at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation to restore its body temperature and heart rate back to normal.
Rachel Bosworth, a spokesperson for the foundation, said on Tuesday that the turtle’s temperature has been brought up to 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and its heart rate has increased to 30 beats per minute, both of which are normal and healthy rates for sea turtles.
When the 1-foot-long, 4-pound juvenile Atlantic sea turtle was rescued at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25, its heart rate was about seven beats per minute and its temperature significantly lower than 77 degrees, according to a press release issued by the foundation on Thanksgiving.
Ms. Bosworth said cold stunning in marine animals occurs when waters dip below 50 degree Fahrenheit. Cold-stunned sea turtles can appear as if they’re dead, but they can also still be mobile and breathe on their own, although they may stop eating and swimming, making it difficult for them to get to warmer areas.
“Any turtle on the beach at this time would most likely be suffering from cold stunning, which is like hypothermia,” Ms. Bosworth wrote in an email this week. “Because we’ve had a warmer fall, turtles that should have migrated south may still be present.”
According to the press release, many cold-stunned turtles are spotted on the beach after high tide when the tide begins to recede. Ms. Bosworth added that if a turtle is found on the beach, even if it appears dead, it should be reported to the foundation by calling the 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829.
“It is possible to rescue these turtles at any stage,” the spokesperson said.