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A Marine Mammal Stranding Center volunteer Dec. 6 discovered the season’s first cold-stunned turtle floating in the bayside waters in North Cape May, along Delair Road. The turtle was taken to Sea Turtle Recovery for further care. 

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NORTH CAPE MAY - A recent notice by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center to its volunteers about helping stranded turtles in the cold paid off.

A volunteer of the center Dec. 6 discovered the season's first "cold-stunned" turtle floating in the water while walking their dog along the bayside in North Cape May, said Bob Schoelkopf, the Brigantine-based center's director.

The center, in a Facebook post, said the animal was suffering from respiratory issues caused by lengthy exposure to cold water, conditions assimilated with "cold-stunning."

The health issues happen to sea turtles that fail to migrate to warmer waters in winter, Schoelkopf said, adding that it's common in places like Cape Cod because the bay's surrounding land, being bowl-shaped, can impede turtle migration southward.

The number of cold-stunned turtles discovered by the center varies yearly, in a period that typically lasts between November and December. The center, in 2019, managed to recover 19 turtles enduring cold-induced illnesses, while only one was discovered in 2018. After December, turtles have either managed to migrate or they die, Shoelkopf said.

If someone locates a cold-stunned turtle, the center urges them to contact the center immediately and don't try to warm the turtle from home, as it could cause shock.

The turtle was taken to the Sea Turtle Recovery for further treatments, the center added on Facebook.

To contact Eric Conklin, email econklin@cmcherald.com.

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