Hundreds of Sea Turtles Are Washing Up on New England Shores, and Experts Don’t Know Why

Hundreds of Sea Turtles Are Washing Up on New England Shores, and Experts Don’t Know Why

It’s a problem that has rescuers overwhelmed – hundreds of sea turtles are washing ashore on Cape Cod, and scientists probably won’t be able to save them all from certain death.

When they wash up on beaches, the turtles are already close to dying, Business Insider writes. They’re limp and struggling to move due to their extremely low body temperatures, the report says.

Of the seven species of turtles that wash ashore in New England, six are endangered, according to the New York Times. So a team of volunteers stroll the beaches and rescue any turtles they find in an effort to rehabilitate and relocate them to warmer climates – the only option they have to keep the protected reptiles alive.

(WATCH: Grisly Discovery Baffles Scientists)

This year, there’s been a problem with that mission. Compared to a normal year, when no more than a few hundred turtles wash ashore, 2014 has seen more than 1,000 of the helpless creatures needing a rescue, according to Wicked Local Cape Cod. Despite many of those stranded turtles being Kemp’s ridley turtles – one of the endangered species – the veterinarians and volunteers simply can’t tend to all of them, and hundreds have died, the New York Times added.

What used to be one or two stranded turtles a season turned into as many as 157 in a single day, said Bob Prescott, a 32-year veteran of turtle rescues, in the Times report.

Experts say they have yet to figure out what’s leading to the massive, sudden increase in stranded turtles along Cape Cod, but they know what causes the reptiles to get stranded in a life-threatening situation. When the turtles begin to swim south in search of warmer waters for the winter, some get left behind for reasons unknown, Business Insider says. As temperatures plunge in the late fall and early winter months, the stranded turtles become so cold that they can’t move and slowly die on the beach.

Some animal experts are cautiously hopeful that the influx of turtles means their recent conservation efforts are working to boost the population of endangered species, but they need to know more before they can draw that conclusion.

« I think it’s definitely a good sign, on one hand, because there’s a lot of turtles, » said Matt Darcy, Wellfleet Sanctuary spokesperson, in the Wicked Local Cape Cod report. « But what percentage of the population is this? »

MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Turtles Arrive in Mexico

An Olive Ridley sea turtle arrives at Ixtapilla beach, in Aquila municipality on the Pacific coast of Michoacan State, Mexico, on October 13, 2013. More than 1,000 turtles are expected to arrive in the area daily this season. (HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)