At 5:46 p.m. on Sunday, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation was alerted to an entangled leatherback sea turtle approximately 1.8 miles west of the western tip of Gardiners Island in Gardiners Bay.
The leatherback sea turtle, an endangered species and largest species of turtle on Earth, was at least four feet in length and weighed approximately 600 pounds. Leatherbacks can grow to 7 feet long and more than 2,000 pounds. A boater aboard M/V “Madeleine” of Quanset, Rhode Island spotted the animal and notified the United States Coast Guard Station in Montauk. Kimberly Durham, Riverhead Foundation Rescue Program Director along with Julika Wocial, Rescue Program Supervisor, responded to the call. The Montauk USCG Station provided a vessel to take the Riverhead Foundation Rescue Team to the scene.
At approximately 8:10 p.m. the leatherback sea turtle was successfully disentangled and swam away, gear free. “This operation was a success thanks to the concerned members of the public who reported the animal and then went back to relocate it, and to the quick response and invaluable resources of the USCG Station Montauk,” Wocial said.
“This is just the beginning of the sea turtle season. I encourage the public to report any sightings to our 24-hour hotline number,” Durham added.
Currently the Riverhead Foundation’s staff and volunteers are caring for 10 seals, 15 sea turtles and one Risso’s dolphin, the largest species of dolphin, recognizable for their lack of the “bottle nose” found on more common varieties.
The Foundation released “Tigger” the seal on Saturday, July 6, during the US Coast Guard Station Shinnecock Open House in Hampton Bays. “We wish Tigger the best of luck!” the Foundation shared, along with some photographs of the moment, on their Facebook page. (See two more shots below)
In-house and yet-to-be-released patients can be viewed by visiting the Riverhead Foundation web camera at riverheadfoundation.org or by visiting the organization’s Facebook page. Reports of injured or distressed seals, dolphins, whales or sea turtles can be reported to the Riverhead Foundation’s 24-hour Emergency Hotline Number: 631-369-9829.
To learn more about the Rescue Program, membership or volunteer opportunities, call the Riverhead Foundation at 631-369-9840.