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Turtle Fliers Needed for Cold-Stun Transports

Dear Turtle Fliers,

We hope this letter finds you healthy and able to maintain some semblance of normal in the current COVID environment. In spite of recent challenges, the natural world continues to operate on its typical schedule, which means we are quickly approaching the Massachusetts cold stun sea turtle season. Unfortunately, COVID-related challenges have hit our response network partners hard, most of which are non-profit organizations.

They are planning for this upcoming winter season with fewer staff and volunteers, less funding, and strict social distancing protocols that will make response and rehabilitation extremely challenging. With this in mind, we are looking at a busier than normal season as we will likely have to transport turtles out of Massachusetts more often than prior years. Local facilities are changing protocols to continue to provide life-saving care to cold-stunned sea turtles even with their limitations, but this will only be possible if they can reduce the number of turtles in their hospitals. That is where the amazing pilots of Turtles Fly Too play a critical role this year.


Sea Turtles Will Need Long-Term Care

Sea turtles will start to wash up on the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts by November. We never know how many turtles to expect each year. In the last five years, the total has ranged from 300 to over 800, with the maximum ever documented in 2014--over 1,200 cold-stunned turtles. The Response Network rescues these sea turtles from beaches and brings them to rehabilitation facilities in Massachusetts. Once there, the turtles are gradually warmed, started on treatment, and stabilized to await transport to a long-term care facility. The ultimate goal is to bring the turtles back to health and release them back into the wild to rejoin the reproductive population and contribute towards recovery of the endangered species.


Transportation Assistance Needed

Turtles are transported each year to long-term care facilities or even to release beaches along the Eastern or Gulf coasts. Reaching these locations by ground transport takes many hours or even days. Turtles Fly Too, with the help of generous pilots like you, significantly reduces the duration of these transports. Every moment counts for cold-stunned turtles. Reducing the amount of time these critical patients are out of water minimizes their stress during transport and, ultimately, increases their chances for success.


Sign Up Below to Help

This year we expect to need more flights than prior years and there will likely be an added urgency to move quickly as facilities with limited-staff fill up in Massachusetts. For this reason, we are asking our pilots to commit in advance their availability during the ten weeks of the cold stun season. Turtle fliers may select one or more weeks to be “on call” for turtle rescue flights. Identifying available pilots ahead of time will hopefully reduce the time between when a need is identified and when we can get turtles off the ground. You can also mark your calendars and expect a call. 

We sincerely appreciate your generosity and caring to offer your assistance for these critical sea turtle conservation efforts. Whether you are a veteran “Turtle Flier” or new to our organization, we thank you. If you fly a PC12, C-172, PA-28 or anything inbetween, we need you. Once the season starts, we will use the list to call Turtle Fliers whose planes and locations match our missions. If you would like to be on our call list please sign up below, or if you have any questions, please contact Kate Sampson Thank you for your involvement!


Kate Sampson                                                                                
Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator                                                     
NOAA Fisheries
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office

Leslie Weinstein
Turtles Fly Too

Sign up as a Turtle Flier!