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See a Tangled Turtle? Call Our Hotline

On Thursday, June 9, an endangered leatherback sea turtle entangled in fishing gear came ashore in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Its neck and one of its flippers was wrapped in line from two lobster pots. The turtle was unable to free itself, and was stuck. A group of Good Samaritans saw the struggling animal, cut it free, and directed it back to open water.

The rescuers’ hearts were in the right place, but we lost an opportunity to help this animal, as it may have had cuts or lacerations and needed medical attention. Also, the rescuers could have been badly injured, caught in the line or struck by the powerful sea turtle.

Our Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Disentanglement Program includes animal care professionals, researchers, and veterinarians with years of experience disentangling and treating injuries to sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals. On that day, our network members, along with the Coast Guard, had just launched a response from Woods Hole to help the entangled turtle when we received word that it had been freed.


Add Us to Your Contacts!

Report stranded or entangled sea turtles or marine mammals: 

800-900-3622 (Center for Coastal Studies – MA),
866-755-6622 (NOAA - ME-VA)
USCG Channel 16.

If you see a free swimming turtle in Massachusetts waters, you can report it to Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary's Sea Turtle Sighting Hotline: 

This information helps us alert other boaters to sea turtles in the area and can prevent boat strikes.


Celebrate Sea Turtle Week by Learning How to Help

This is the time of year when leatherback, loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles return to northern waters, with many sightings around Cape Cod. Celebrate Sea Turtle Week 2016 with this short lesson about what to do if you see a sea turtle or marine mammal in distress:

Beached Turtles

If you find a live sea turtle on the shore, tangled or not, it may be sick or injured beyond what you can immediately see. In New England, healthy sea turtles should not be on beaches or out of the water. If they are, there is likely a medical issue that requires professional attention.

Stand By Your Critter!

We need you to keep the animal in sight and wait for responders to arrive. If the animal is alive and breathing when you find it, it’s very unlikely to die within hours of its first report. Like any first responders, we need time to get on scene, so please stay with the animal and try to reduce any stress on the animal as much as possible. Sea turtles are very strong, and a stressed animal can act unpredictably, so keep people and pets at a safe distance.

Helping One, Helping All

Some marine mammals and all sea turtles are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Leatherback and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are listed as endangered, while green and loggerhead sea turtles in our region are listed as threatened, so it’s especially important that we use every opportunity to get individuals healthy and back into the population.

Also, we have met some of these turtles before. Some of them are tagged, either with metal tags or with implanted PIT tags, much like we use in cats and dogs. For example, the Virginia Aquarium recently treated a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle for a hook injury. The tag told us that Wellfleet Audubon had rescued it when it washed up cold-stunned in Cape Cod Bay in November 2014. It was treated by New England Aquarium, sent to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for more rehabilitation, and released on February 25, 2015 at New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Each bit of data about these turtles helps us better understand their movements and habitat use, and we can use that information to further protect them and help recover the species.

What About Seals, Dolphins, and Whales?

It’s normal for seals to rest on the beach. We know they are adorable and might look like they need your help, but remember they are wild animals. If you see a seal or seal pup on the beach, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. Seal moms leave their pups on the beaches for safety while they go fishing. The seal pup isn’t cold. Please don’t try to wrap it in a sweater. It doesn’t like tuna sandwiches. Despite what you have seen on Youtube, it doesn’t want to play with your dog. And please don’t take a selfie with it! If you see injuries, entanglements, or are concerned about its health for any other reason, please call the hotlines.

If you see a whale or dolphin tangled in gear in the water or on the beach, please call the hotlines immediately.

Find Out More:

Sea Turtles in the Greater Atlantic Region
Northeast Sea Turtle Mammal Stranding & Disentanglement Network