Biologists at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation are trying figure out what killed 318-pound, 3-foot-long female loggerhead sea turtle that washed ashore Wednesday morning in Orient Point.
The dead turtle was discovered on a beach near Lands End Road by someone who called the Riverhead Foundation’s hotline, said Rob DiGiovanni, the organization’s executive director and senior biologist.
By Wednesday evening, DiGiovanni said his staff had retrieved the animal and were en route to the Riverhead facility, where the turtle, which appears to be an adult, would undergo a necropsy to determine its cause of death.
Loggerhead turtles are pretty common in Long Island waters, DiGiovanni said.
Last year, 87 sea turtles washed ashore on Long Island and 38 were loggerheads, according to the Riverhead Foundation. Not all of these turtles died, though.
As the water temperatures drop in the fall and winter, he said turtles can become hypothermic, or “cold stunned.” When these turtles wash up on a beach, DiGiovanni said, “it looks like they might be dead, but in many cases they might not be.”
DiGiovanni said that’s why it’s so important for the public to report any sightings of marine life on the beach by calling 631-369-9829. If his agency is notified, they can try to intervene to save the animal’s life.
He warns strongly against touching animals that have washed ashore, regardless of whether it appears to be dead or alive.
Throughout October and November, the Riverhead Foundation will be conducting informational sessions across Long Island to educate the public about the role they can play in helping to save marine life. For more information, visit riverheadfoundation.org.
He added, “We do really do rely on the public.”