Rescuers found close to 190 sea turtles frozen solid along the Cape Cod shoreline in Massachusetts on Friday after temperatures fell into the single digits overnight, The Boston Globe reported.
“A lot of the turtles were found frozen in the water still,” said Bob Prescott, director of Mass Audubon, reported NBC News.
In winter, the nonprofit conservation organization regularly patrols shorelines rescuing turtles stunned by the cold, according to CNN, but it did not expect so many fatalities.
“This was way too cold,” Prescott said, according to the network. “Everything was slushy by yesterday morning. Some of them are small. It didn’t take long for them to freeze.”
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Most of the dead sea turtles are Kemp’s ridley turtles, which are smaller than other species, reported The Boston Globe. They were probably caught out on sand flats by the cold and wind, said Jenette Kerr, spokeswoman for Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
“The flash freezing that occurred quickly overnight left the beaches all frozen up,” Kerr said, according to the Globe. “Sadly, everything coming in this morning were like ice cubes.”
Mass Audubon has found more than 400 dead turtles so far this winter, NBC News reported.
Rescued turtles that survived the cold will be flown to warmer waters between South Carolina and Florida, reported The Boston Globe. Those that remain at the sanctuary for the winter will be released off Cape Cod in the summer.
Climate change may be partly to blame, as northern waters have remained warmer longer, delaying the annual turtle migration south and causing the turtles to enter chilly Cape Cod waters later in the year than in the past, reported NBC News.
“So when we get these quick swings from warm to cooler, the turtles that haven’t made it south definitely get into trouble.” said Wallace J. Nichols, a research associate at California Academy of Sciences, reported the network.