By Lisa Hughes

QUINCY (CBS) – They’re saving a species at the turtle hospital in Quincy. The endangered sea turtles are being stranded in Cape Cod Bay.

It’s this cold snap, and the Cape’s geography that are causing the turtles to get stuck. But thanks to the work of local scientists and volunteers, hundreds of the creatures are surviving.

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“As the days start getting shorter and temperatures start to drop, to everybody here, that means sea turtle season,” said Connie Merigo, the Manager of Marine Animal Rescue at the turtle hospital which is run by the New England Aquarium.

Sea turtle being treated at turtle hospital in Quincy (WBZ-TV)

The turtles wash up on the shores from Sandwich to Truro. When the water gets cold the turtles become hypothermic and lethargic and the lucky ones end up on the beaches. Volunteers from Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary search for the turtles and then ambulances bring them to the turtle hospital.

“What happens is the endangered sea turtles that come to Cape Cod Bay to forage in the summer, if they don’t head south, they get trapped in there,” Merigo said.

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That’s because of the shape of the bay. The turtles are trapped in the “U” and can’t migrate south. “If they weren’t rescued, they would die,” Merigo said.

Most of the turtles are from the Kemp’s Ridley species. “The Kemp’s Ridley is the most endangered sea turtle in the world,” Merigo said.

Connie Merigo (WBZ-TV)

So it’s crucial that as many as possible survive. When they arrive at the turtle hospital they are slowly warmed, examined for injury or illness and treated. Three to six months later they’re released into warmer waters.

“This is a conservation marathon that we’re in right now. These endangered turtles would die without intervention. And with our partnership with Mass Audubon we’re able to save hundreds of them and it makes a big difference,” said Merigo.

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It’s typical for about 300 sea turtles to be rescued and treated each year. The Aquarium and Mass Audubon has been doing that work for more than 25 years.

Lisa Hughes