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Nov 25, 2019

Beached Turtles: What To Do and What Not To Do

Photo courtesy of Amanda Galanti

Being a local Jersey Shore resident has many benefits and perks, one in particular is having the ability to walk along our beautiful shores during all seasons of the year. In recent weeks, locals have been noticing an unusual occurrence for the area – beached sea turtles. Most of the local population are not educated on why this is happening or how they can help. Howell resident Julie Schumacher is a Habitat Restoration Technician for the American Littoral Society, a coastal conservation nonprofit on Sandy Hook. When Schumacher’s friend, Amanda Galanti of Atlantic Highlands, came in contact with a beached turtle on Nov. 15 on Sandy Hook, Schumacher realized she had to help, and with her background in coastal conservation, she knew who to call.

Photos Courtesy of Julie Schumacher

The turtle in question was found on the water’s edge and wasn’t “looking great.” Schumacher and Galanti immediately called the Marine Mammal Stranding Center of Brigantine. The MMSC is an organization that specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of turtles, seals and other marine life.   Schumacher explained, “This turtle and the many others who have been washing up along the Jersey Shore are cold stunned/shocked. This happens when waters reach 50 degrees and below.” The recent cold snaps have caused the water temperature in some areas to drop an estimated 10 degrees in one month. Green sea turtles in particular are found throughout the ocean and do typically move to southern, warmer regions this time of year. However, Schumacher tell us, that some, typically juveniles or older/injured turtles, do not make the journey into warmer waters and end up cold stunned on the beach. If they are not found and taken care of, they most likely will not survive. However, once a marine mammal has been rehabilitated, the MMSC will do public release, often on Sandy Hook beaches, as well as other areas along the Jersey coastline. “It’s an awesome sight to see,” Schumacher said.

After speaking with the MMSC, Schumacher was instructed to move the turtle away from the water’s edge and wrap it in a towel. The turtles can’t be warmed too fast, like in a building or car, because that will send them into shock as well. They need to be warmed slowly. She moved the turtle to higher ground and loosely wrapped it in a couple towels she had in her car and sat with it until someone from MMSC came to retrieve it. A follow-up call to the MMSC proved Schumacher’s actions were successful, and the turtle she had helped did survive the rescue and was in long-term care at the center.

Because sea turtles and other marine life are protected under certain state and federal regulations, it is illegal to feed, get within a certain distance, or touch/move certain species without authorization or approval. If you find a turtle (or any marine life) that appears to be beached, lethargic or barely responsive, please do the following:

  • Call Marine Mammal Stranding Center at (609) 266-0538.
  • Do not touch or move the turtle until permission is granted by the MMSC (they will advise you what to do).