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Riverhead Foundation rescues seal, 2 sea turtles

A volunteer cares for an Atlantic green sea

A volunteer cares for an Atlantic green sea turtle that was found cold-stunned on a Southampton beach. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation rescued three animals on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015: a seal trapped in upstate Champlain Canal Lock 1, and two cold-stunned sea turtles in Southampton and Mattituck; rescuers were unable to save the Mattituck turtle. Credit: Riverhead Foundation

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation recovered three stranded animals Friday in separate rescue operations on the East End and upstate.

A gray seal previously rehabilitated by the group was found trapped in a canal lock in upstate Waterford, and two Atlantic green sea turtles, one of which died overnight, were reported cold-stunned in Southampton and Mattituck.

The foundation received calls about sightings of the seal in Champlain Canal as early as July, officials said, about two weeks after biologists released the seal into the Atlantic Ocean in Southampton. The seal was contained when New York State Canal Corp. officials closed off and began to drain Lock 1 for maintenance in November.

The Riverhead Foundation received word about the seal on Nov. 30, according to spokeswoman Rachel Bosworth, and a team went to retrieve it Friday. The male seal was taken back to the foundation’s facilities in Riverhead for evaluation. Biologists determined it was a previously treated seal based on an ID tag on its flipper.

Officials also received separate calls about the cold-stunned turtles.

Cold-stunning is similar to hypothermia and causes animals such as turtles to have difficulty moving or eating if they get too cold. Turtles that are suffering from cold-stunning might appear dead but can be revived if treated soon enough.

The turtle in Southampton, which weighed about 6 pounds, 6 ounces and measured about 12 inches long, came in with a heart rate of 9 beats per minute and a body temperature of about 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Mattituck turtle, which died overnight, weighed about 6 pounds, 2 ounces and was about 12 inches long. That animal’s heart rate was 10 beats per minute and body temperature was about 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

Healthy turtles have an average heart rate of 25 to 35 beats per minute, and their body temperatures are 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Green sea turtles are considered a threatened species, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but gray seals are not. Foundation officials noted, however, that both are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires people to stay at least 50 feet away from marine mammals and sea turtles.

People who find stranded sea animals can call the foundation’s 24-hour stranding hotline at 631-369-9829.

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