Ever seen a turtle stuck in the middle of the road and wondered to yourself how you could help?

That’s where New York Marine Rescue Center (NYMRC) comes into play.

The Riverhead-based organization, which launched in 1996, is the primary response team for live sea turtles, seals and small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, & toothed whales) and are the only facility permitted to rehabilitate sea turtles and seals in the state of New York.

Here’s important information from NYMRC as the winter months approach.

PSA

We are just beginning cold stun season, which occurs when a sea turtles body temperature drops and they become lethargic and strand.  This year we have a tremendous number of turtles in house, compared to last year.  Yesterday afternoon we were up to 22 sea turtles in house—last year at this time we had 2! 

We rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals and have a hospital where we rehabilitate sea turtles and seals.  We are the only facility in New York State that rehabilitates these animals and we serve all of New York. 

Cold stunning is a condition similar to hypothermia that is brought on when cold-blooded sea turtles are exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F. Since cold stunning slows the movements and bodily functions of afflicted sea turtles, it causes the animals to get pushed ashore with the currents onto New York beaches.  This condition left unnoticed, can become fatal.

The Greater Atlantic Region is expecting a significant increase in cold-stunned sea turtles this year.  With that being said, we are gearing up for a very busy season.  A sea turtle is typically under our care for 242 days and the approximate cost to rehabilitate a cold-stunned sea turtle is over $10,000.  With your help, we will be able to continue and increase, our rescue and rehabilitation efforts for these critical species. 

When a call is received through our hotline, a staff member or trained volunteer will go to the site to pick up the turtle. A brief evaluation will be done in the field to determine how responsive the animal is. The sea turtle is then transported to our facility and a full physical is done with the staff.

How you can help:

  • Consider joining our team of volunteers:
    • Become a member of our NY State Emergency Cold Stun Sea Turtle Response Team
    • Volunteers are needed in our Rescue Center
    • Volunteers are needed to work with the animals
  • If you are walking the beach and spot a turtle, please call our stranding hotline at 631-369-9829
  • Attend one of our monthly beach clean-up’s at:
    • Cedar Beach in Mt. Sinai
    • Fire Island Wilderness Visitors Center in Shirley
    • Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays
    • Reeves Beach in Riverhead
    • Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga
  • Provide financial assistance to the NYMRC
    • You can mail a check to 467 E Main Street in Riverhead, NY 11901
    • Or, call Danielle Perillo, Director of Development at 631-369-9840 x104

What not to do:

  • Please do not handle the animals unless you have spoken to someone on staff
  • Please do not move the animals
  • Please do not attempt to warm the animals

There is a delicate and specific process to bringing them back to the temperature that if done incorrectly can be extremely detrimental to their survival.  If you find a sea turtle our staff may walk you through other procedures to keep the animal safe until our arrival, but please do not do anything unless specifically requested by our staff.

To learn more about cold stun sea turtles, or about the NY Marine Rescue Center, please visit us at www.nymarinerescue.org

About NYMRC

The New York Marine Rescue Center (NYMRC), which has been operating since 1996, is the primary response team for live sea turtles, seals and small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, & toothed whales) and are the only facility permitted to rehabilitate sea turtles and seals in the state of New York. Our mission is to preserve and protect the marine environment through conservation efforts including rescue, rehabilitation, education and research.

In 2018, NYMRC processed 1,585 calls, responding to 167 stranded animals and admitted 35 seals, 47 sea turtles and provided in-field response to four small cetaceans.  In addition, we provided support to our network partners, New England Aquarium (NEAq) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and took in an additional 15 sea turtles and one seal.

Top: Sea turtle being rehabilitated at NYMRC (courtesy)