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190 Turtles Freeze to Death

Two chilling nights killed them off the coast of Cape Cod
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2018 5:15 PM CST
In this file photo, provided by Mass Audubon, a juvenile Leatherback sea turtle lies on the sand at First Encounter Beach in Eastham, Mass.   (Jenette Kerr/ Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary/ Cape Cod Times via AP)

(Newser) – Nearly 190 sea turtles died off Cape Cod in a way no one wants to go—slowly freezing to death. The Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary says the turtles were found "incapacitated" along the coast of Massachusetts early Friday, NBC News reports. "A lot of the turtles were found frozen in the water still," says Mass Audubon’s director, Bob Prescott. "I picked up two to three myself that were still in the water, the slushy water." Researchers say the turtles—among roughly 400 found this season—are fooled by warming waters that entice them to migrate further north. "So when we get these quick swings from warm to cooler, the turtles that haven’t made it south definitely get into trouble," says sea turtle biologist Wallace Nichols.

Two nights of single-digit temperatures were enough to kill the turtles, which—like other reptiles—can't regulate their body temperatures because they're cold-blooded, AccuWeather reports. Water below 50 degrees Fahrenheit immobilizes them and makes them float to the surface, wash ashore, and slowly freeze. On the upside, conservation efforts have improved their population rates and helped them migrate further than they have in years, but they're unprepared for sudden temperature shifts in those areas. Sadly, several critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles were among the dead. "Climate change is impacting sea turtles very clearly," says Nichols. (Meanwhile, the US released a dire climate report in a way possibly meant to sideline it.)

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