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NY Marine Rescue Center wraps up sweet release season: Turtles, seals sent back home to sea

The New York Marine Rescue Center’s final group of rehabilitated sea turtles was released last week at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays. Nine turtles swam off into the Atlantic, three of them with satellite tags attached to their shells.

Rescue Program Director Maxine Montello said on Aug. 31 that, “By tonight we will have released 46 sea turtles back home. All these turtles had candy-themed names, including Skittles, Twizzlers, Butterscotch and Lollipop, and were stranded in 2022.”

Ms. Montello said all but one of the sea turtles had been stranded due to cold-stunning, a phenomenon similar to hypothermia in humans.

“This year we hit our record cold-stunning season, with nearly 100 sea turtles stranded between late November and early January,” she said. “This is historically the highest amount of turtles to be stranded in New York in a short period of time.” She added that the marine rescue team worked “around the clock” rescuing sea turtles across Long Island and admitting patients for long-term rehabilitation.

The movements of satellite-tagged sea turtles are tracked on the rescue center’s website, nymarinerescue.org. “These devices are part of a five-year study I have conducted regarding the post-release movement pattern of rehabilitated sea turtles and trying to understand utilization of New York waters,” Ms. Montello said. “There are big things to come.”

The New York Marine Rescue Center also released seven seals this season, each with a candy-themed name as well. Among them were Reese’s PB Cup on Aug. 3 and Whopper on July 12, both gray seals.

Ms. Montello said many of these seals needed rescuing due to human interaction, which includes entanglement, vessel interaction and harassment. “This is a growing issue on Long Island and something that NYMRC is focusing their efforts on,” she said.

On July 8, NYMRC released a female gray seal named Kit Kat with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Hampton Bays. She had become entangled in monofilament fishing line and required nearly three months of rehabilitation for her injuries. “Kit Kat is a great story of a second chance for a young animal,” Ms. Montello said.

Ms. Montello said that the best way to know when releases will occur is to follow NYMRC on social media. It’s also a way to stay in-the-know about their upcoming events, two of which will happen this fall.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 7 p.m., NYMRC will hold its second annual Turtle Beer Crawl, which Ms. Montello called the “best event of the year.” The crawl starts at Twin Fork Beer Company on Raynor Avenue in Riverhead and will also hit Long Ireland Beer Company, Tradewinds Brewing, North Fork Brewing Company and end at übergeek Brewing Company.

Ms. Montello said the inaugural beer crawl in 2022 had close to 95 participants and it was very successful. “Patrons enjoyed ‘crawling’ between breweries enjoying discounted beers and answering sea turtle trivia questions,” she said. “Each brewery also donated a raffle basket that were in high demand by the participants.”

Crawlers can also run a 5K to support sea turtles. In its 26th year, the 5K kicks off Saturday, Oct. 14, at 8 a.m., rain or shine at the McDermott Avenue parking lot in Riverhead. “This race is loved by all participants for it has been the same race for years,” Ms. Montello said. More information for both events is available at nymarinerescue.org. Donations are accepted year-round.