SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Dead sea turtles have been washing up along the beach from Biloxi to Waveland. So far this year, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has responded to nearly 40 dead turtles, ten in the past few days. The majority of the turtles found dead have been young.
"There's a number of things it could be," IMMS Ecologist Andy Coleman, Ph.D. "Always in the background you have the ghost of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It could be fishery related, as well."
IMMS Director Moby Solangi, Ph.D., said the cold winter could have also played a factor in the recent deaths.
"These are cold blooded animals," Solangi said. "It could be the cold water temperature. It could be they haven't had any food, but it is very unusual. This is the stranding season, but it is unusual to see a big spike."
Hoping to find out what is causing the deaths, IMMS staff members examine every turtle found very carefully. The more they are able to learn about the Kemp's Ridleys, the more the non-profit can do to save the endangered species.
"What we are losing are future generations of turtles that could be contributing to the recovery of the species," Coleman said. "So what we are doing here with our federal and state partners are trying to figure out the answers."
Another important way IMMS helps to prevent the sea turtles from becoming extinct is by rehabilitating injured ones found in South Mississippi. Every year, IMMS saves about 100 sea turtles.
"What we try to do is respond to the injury, make sure they can feed on their own and then get them back in their natural habitat as soon as possible," Coleman said.
That can take anywhere from two weeks to two months.
IMMS has also seen a spike in dolphin deaths this year. So far, 29 dolphins have been reported dead in South Mississippi
If you happen to come across a dead or injured sea turtle or dolphin, you are asked to call IMMS at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN.