A dead loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore near Zack’s Cliffs in Aquinnah on June 17, the first across the Cape and Islands in 2024.

Loggerheads are one of four species of sea turtles found around the Island. All are federally protected as “endangered” or “threatened”.

Bret Stearns, the indirect services administrator for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) natural resources department, said the department didn’t find any evidence of human interactions that could have contributed to its death. The cause of death is unclear. 

After the turtle’s death was investigated, it was retained by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head so that members may use its shell for traditional and cultural purposes.

Mr. Stearns said the Island doesn’t find many sea turtles washed up on its shores. But when there are, the turtles are almost always dead or in need of rehabilitation.

If a turtle is found on the shore and appears to be alive, Mr. Stearns said to call the Center for Coastal Studies entanglement hotline at 800-900-3622. From there, a team will collect the turtle, analyze its condition, give it treatment or send it to a larger facility, such as the New England Aquarium, for help.

If a turtle is found dead or alive in the ocean, Mr. Stearns also urged people to call the Mass Audubon sea turtle sighting hotline at 1-888-732-8878. The organization collects data that helps inform conservation efforts.

“When you call the hotline the best thing you can do is provide detailed observations,” Mr. Stearns said. “Whether it was moving and how long you’d seen it in that same position. You’re better off not to interact with it.”

According to Mass Audubon, the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England, it’s important not to carry sea turtles back into the water.