As winter looms on the horizon in the Northeast, rehabilitation facilities stock up on supplies and increase staffing levels to be ready to help sea turtles, caught too far north when the cold weather arrives. Hundreds of endangered and threatened turtles wash up every year along the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, stunned by the cold waters, and in need of medical care to survive. For the last few years, general aviation pilots have volunteered to transport the turtles from the Cape to sites around the country where they can be cared for. “Using flights instead of ground transport reduces travel time and, consequently, stress to these sick turtles, thereby increasing their chance of survival and ultimate release back into the wild,” says Leslie Weinstein, of Idaho, who has organized the GA flights.
Weinstein says the effort, now branded as Turtles Fly Too, is recruiting more GA pilots who can pitch in for the coming cold season. “The GA community has been amazingly generous in donating time, fuel, and planes to transport sea turtles to rehabilitation facilities for long-term medical care,” he said. “We hope to continue to recruit new ‘Turtle Fliers’ and welcome back our generous pilots from the last few years.” Weinstein added that the organization has teamed up with several universities and high schools to use the turtles that don’t survive to help train pre-veterinary and science students in turtle anatomy. Pilots who are interested in helping out in the effort can contact Weinstein via www.turtlesflytoo.org.