Saving sea turtles stunned by the cold

Over the past month, 21 cold-stunned sea turtles were recovered along Long Island's shoreline. The eight that survived are at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

"The water goes from being in the 60s and 70s and then we drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit and that's when we start seeing them come and they start stranding on the beaches," Maxine Montello said. "We're able to bring them in here and get them back to their temperatures."

Montello, the Rescue Program supervisor, said Long Island typically follows New England's lead when it comes to finding stranded turtles but this year was different. Usually, New England sees the first cold-stuns of the season, but this time Long Island did. She said that everyone was surprised.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that 361 cold-stunned sea turtles have turned up in the Greater Atlantic Region so far this season. The majority of them are the critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. They're unable to swim out of the area in time and succumb to hypothermia.

Montello said that if you see what looks like a dead turtle on a Long Island beach you should call Riverhead's stranding hotline at 631-369-9829 because the reptile may still be alive and needs help.

The turtles are nursed back to health and released either on Long Island in the summer or moved to Florida, where the waters are warmer, if some are ready to go before summer. The ultimate goal is preserving the species, one turtle at a time.