Mass Audubon said a “once in a lifetime weather system” of “gale force winds,” cold temperatures and high tide caused the migrating turtles to freeze.
Close to 190 Dead Sea turtles were found frozen off the coast of Cape Cod Friday after low temperatures stifled their ability to make it safely to shore.
The Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary said a “once in a lifetime weather system” of “gale force winds,” cold temperatures and high tide caused the migrating turtles to become “incapacitated” by the time they were found along the Massachusetts peninsula around 6 a.m. ET Friday.
“A lot of the turtles were found frozen in the water still,” Mass Audubon’s director Bob Prescott told NBC News. “I picked up two to three myself that were still in the water, the slushy water.”
Prescott said that while the organization will help facilitate tests on the turtles to determine the exact cause of death, the turtles did “essentially freeze.” Overall, the Mass Audubon said they have found over 400 dead turtles this season.
Close to 400 sea turtles have been found dead along the Cape Cod this season as cold water temperatures cause some of them to die in frozen waters, said Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary director Bob Prescott.Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
According to researchers, the timing of the species’ migration has only increased the chances of turtles getting frozen. Back in the 1990s, sea turtles used to arrive in the Cape Cod area in October but now, they have been coming to shore around November when the water is much colder.
“Sea turtles are moving further north along our coast, or south to the southern hemisphere, as waters are warming and they are expanding their ranges,” said Wallace J. Nichols, a research associate at California Academy of Sciences and sea turtle biologist.
“So when we get these quick swings from warm to cooler, the turtles that haven’t made it south definitely get into trouble.”
Migration is a seasonal way of life for sea turtles — traveling thousands of miles to feed and lay their eggs, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Conservation efforts in recent years have helped to stabilize the sea turtle population and allowed them to make their way to locations they haven’t visited in years, according to Nichols. However, changing temperatures have made them unprepared for what is headed their way in those areas.