10/27/12 7:59am
10/27/2012 7:59 AM
Riverhead Foundation, Atlantis, Downtown Riverhead

RIVERHEAD FOUNDATION COURTESY PHOTO | Rob DiGiovanni and a volunteer apply a satellite tag to a rehabilitated green sea turtle.

Program these digits into your phone: 631-369-9829.

That’s the number of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, and you never know when you’re going to need it.

That’s what James Sullivan of the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle program told a small group of attendees last week at the first of four cold-stunned sea turtle lectures being presented this month and next at Long Island Aquarium.

“You never know when you’re going to come upon a sea turtle, seal or another marine creature washed up on a beach,” Mr. Sullivan said. When that happens, you’ll need the number of the Riverhead Foundation, the only entity in New York state certified to rescue stranded marine animals.

Four species of sea turtle can wash up on any of Long Island’s beaches — Atlantic green, loggerhead, leatherback and Kemp’s ridley — and all are endangered.

Mr. Sullivan said at last Monday’s meeting — attended by about a dozen people — that the foundation is predicting this year will be a bad one for turtles, similar to 1995, when more than 70 were found.

“We’ve already seen more sea turtles this year than all of 2011,” he said. Last winter, though, was unusually mild.

Lecture attendees asked several questions about sea turtles, including how to identify the different types, which beaches they can wash up on, and how long they can survive in a cold-stunned state, as well as what to do after a turtle is found.

Cold-stunned sea turtles may appear to beachcombers as if they’re already dead, Mr. Sullivan said, stressing the importance of calling the foundation even in those cases.

“The sea turtles that get washed up have likely already lost movement in their extremities,” he said. “At this point, the blood is focusing on getting between the brain and heart and their respiratory and GI tracts have shut down.” This happens, Mr. Sullivan explained, when sea turtles that have traveled into the Sound or other inshore waters fail to leave before water temperatures cool to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This morning the water was 61.4 degrees, so we’re getting close,” he said.

Because turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, their bodies do not warm themselves but instead match the temperature of surrounding waters.

At 50 degrees, cold-stunning symptoms begin to hit smaller turtles first and then affect bigger ones.

“Eventually they just turn into a piece of driftwood, wash up on the beach and get deposited along the high tide line,” he said.

The rescue window for cold-stunned sea turtles, which can be found along any of Long Island’s beaches, is six to eight hours maximum from the time they wash ashore, Mr. Sullivan said.

Getting the turtle out of the wind and safe from predators, if possible, is as important to saving its life as is calling the foundation, he said. Equally important is not attempting to heat the turtle.

“If you can handle the turtle and they aren’t snapping, get them out of the wind and sheltered, but don’t turn on the heat in the car or inside because you can quickly send them into heat stroke,” he said. Those that remove turtles from the beach should keep them in a truck bed, unheated garage or shed until the foundation arrives.

The foundation’s process for safely warming up turtles takes hours, expertise and equipment, he said, including possible tracheal intubation if the respiratory system has completely shut down.

As the weather cools through autumn into the winter, the Riverhead Foundation is asking the public to comb the beaches and search for cold-stunned sea turtles over the coming months.

Mr. Sullivan said cold-stunned turtles can be incredibly hard to spot because they are often covered in barnacles and the same color as the seaweed deposited along the high tide line.

“We’ve had calls about a sea turtle and it’s taken four times up and down the beach to find it,” he said.

Rick Kedenburg, with the North Fork Audubon Society, said in an interview after the meeting that he hopes people will use their recreational walks on the beach to do some good by calling 369-9829 if they should see a marine animal in need.

“It’s very important to carry the number with you and call the Riverhead Foundation if you see a stranded turtle or anything else,” he said.

[email protected]

Attend one of the upcoming cold-stunned turtle lectures in the Peconic Room at Hyatt Place East End, 451 E. Main St., Riverhead, to learn more about how you can help.

 Sunday, Oct. 28, 1:30 p.m. 

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:30 p.m.

10/20/12 3:02pm
10/20/2012 3:02 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Rick Trojanowski of Calverton won the 15th annual Run for the Ridley 5K Saturday.

Rick Trojanowski wasn’t always a runner.

It wasn’t until the Calverton resident had his two children and decided that cycling races were taking up too much of his time that he started to run. He could get up in the morning and put a few miles in before work and it wouldn’t take time away from his family.

Turns out he’s pretty good at it, too.

For the second consecutive year Trojanowski, a graduate of Mattituck High School, has won the Run for the Ridley 5K race to benefit the Riverhead Foundation’s sea turtle rescue and research program.

Even with Saturday’s unseasonably hot temperature, Trojanowski, 38, shaved a few seconds off last year’s time with a 16:38 finish.

“It was a lot hotter,” he said in comparison with his first Run for the Ridley in 2011. “The heat and humidity definitely made it tougher, but you just have to keep running.”

Trojanowski said he typically runs about five or six 5k races a year, since taking up the sport in 2008. He also runs some 10Ks and has run marathons.

He credits coach Brendan Barrett of the Sayville Running Company with helping to coach him into great running shape.

“I just love it,” Trojanowski said of running. “The key is to be real consistent with it and to have quality workouts.

Like female winner Tara Farrell of East Quogue, Trojanowski is a member at the Long Island Aquarium, which the Riverhead Foundation calls home.

“It’s a great organization,” he said. “We just love it there.”

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10/20/12 2:12pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jerry Dicceco of Jerry and the Mermaid restaurant makes 10 gallons of clam chowder that he hands out for free each year at the Run for the Ridley.

Riverhead Foundation executive director Robert DiGiovanni explains how the Run for the Ridley 5K, which celebrated its 15th anniversary Saturday, benefits his organization.

More than 400 runners participated in the race this year.

10/20/12 12:50pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Even kids in strollers took part in Saturday’s Run for the Ridley to benefit the Riverhead Foundation’s sea turtle program.

Below is a list of the top 10 Finishers in Saturday’s Run for the Ridley 5K in downtown Riverhead.

1. Rick Trojanowski, 38, M, Calverton, 16:38

2. Michael Wenke, 18, M, Woodbridge, 17:14

3. Travis Wooten, 16, M, Riverhead, 17:28

4. Patrick McCabe, 23, M, Garden City, 18:22

5. Tara Farrell, 33, F, East Quogue, 18:41

6. Jonathan Bratisax, 30, M, Brooklyn, 19:32

7. Anthony Ceberek, 34, M, East Quogue, 19:44

8. Greg Messina, 34, M, Mattituck 19:54

9. Brian Manghan, 59, M, Wading River, 20:10

10. Shannen Fuertes, 21, F, Levittown, 20:13

Click here for complete race results when they become available


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10/20/12 12:29pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Tara Farrell of East Quogue was the top female finisher Saturday.

Tara Farrell is no stranger to the Long Island Aquarium.

The mother of two young sons ages 2 and 3, the East Quogue resident goes to see the sharks, seals, dolphins and sea turtles quite often.

So it held a more special place in her heart to finish top among female runners in the Riverhead Foundation’s 15th annual Run for the Ridley 5k than it might for some of the other races she’s run.

“We’re big supporters of the aquarium,” Ms. Farrell, 33, said. “We were here yesterday.”

The race benefits the Riverhead Foundation’s sea turtle rescue and research program, based at the aquarium.

Ms. Farrell was a blur to many of the other runners in Saturday’s race. She finished in 18:41, just over two minutes behind the top male finisher, Rick Trojanowski of Calverton.


A past runner of 10ks and marathons, the young mom said she’s finally been able to get back into peak running condition this year. While she kept up with her training the past couple years, she says it’s been tough to run as many races as she’d like to.

“But the kids have been sleeping a little better and I’ve gotten into a better routine this year,” she said.

So how will she celebrate victory in her first Run for the Ridley?

“We’ll probably come back [to the aquarium] later today,” she said. “It’s a great place for kids, families or anyone, really. I recommend the membership.”


BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Ms. Farrell was far from the only young parent to run Saturday.

Ms. Farrell was far from the only young parent to run Saturday.

Kelly and Jason Rudish of Medford ran the 5K with daughter Lyla, 2, in a runners’ stroller.

“We try to do this every year,” she said. “It is a beautiful course and beautifully run by the RFMP staff and volunteers.”

They finished in 27:33.

Barbaraellen Koch contributed reporting for this story.

10/15/12 10:36am
10/15/2012 10:36 AM

AQUARIUM COURTESY PHOTO | A harbor seal at the aquarium before the 2011 AFC championship.

Throughout November, the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center is offering free admission on Fridays for all Riverhead Town residents.

Thanksgiving Day will also be free for town residents

There are five Fridays in November.

“We want to acknowledge and express gratitude to our hometown,” said aquarium owner Joe Petrocelli. “Offering free admission is just a small way of saying ‘thank you’ for the past 12 years.”

The special no-cost aquarium admission rate applies to Town of Riverhead residents only, aquarium officials said.

Visitors must show proof of residency upon entry, and must reside in one of the following hamlets: Riverhead, Jamesport, Aquebogue, Baiting Hallow, Northville, and parts of Laurel, Manorville, Calverton and Wading River.

For more information, please call 631.208.9200, ext. 426).

10/04/12 5:20pm
10/04/2012 5:20 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Held here by aquarist Julian Ansell, “Golf Course” became the first alligator found in the wild in Riverhead when he was found in Wading River Monday. Officials believe he was an illegal pet that was released into the wild.

Riverhead Town animal control officer Jessica Eibs-Stankaitis got the call Monday from police about a wild animal lurking in a pond at a Wading River golf course.

But when she arrived at the scene, Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis was surprised by what she was going to have to catch.

“I was a little shocked to see it was an alligator,” she joked. “It was actually kind of a cute alligator.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Though only 30 inches long and three years old, a gator of Golf Course’s size could still bite off a person’s finger in the right circumstances.

The 24- to 30-inch-long reptile was found in a foot-deep shallow runoff pond at the Great Rock Golf Club.

The animal, later determined to be a young American alligator about three years old, was the first of three gators found on Long Island in three days, with the other two being found Tuesday and Wednesday in Nassau County.

It’s illegal for residents to own an alligator in New York State.

Both Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis and Long Island Aquarium officials warned that owning exotics pets like an alligator poses dangers not just to the owners and their families, but also the community.

“It’s a wild animal, it cannot be domesticated,” Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said. “It’s an animal of opportunity when it needs to eat.”

Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said it was the first time she’d ever seen a gator in these parts.

Alligators can grow to be up to 14 feet long in the Everglades, Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said, though she added the reptiles would not be able to survive the winters in the Northeast.

After the alligator was caught with a catch pole and had its snout taped shut, the live animal was brought to the Long Island Aquarium to be held and cared for by specialists.

“I can only assume it was someone’s pet, and they probably thought releasing it was the humane thing to do,” she said.

Long Island Aquarium aquarist Julian Ansell agreed, noting that the gator – dubbed “Golf Course” by workers at the aquarium until they could come up with a better name – was surprisingly tolerant when being handled.

Aquarium officials have not yet determined whether Golf Course, an protected species known as the American alligator, is a male or female.

Mr. Ansell said Golf Course seemed to be in good health, unlike another gator that was seized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“He’s a little underweight but otherwise he seems pretty healthy,” Mr. Ansell said.

Golf Course was the first gator discovered in the wild near Riverhead, he added. For the next three or so years, Golf Course will be kept at the aquarium with the other two gators and a fourth alligator rescued by a television show.

He will be used to teach children about reptiles and will eventually be sent to a zoo, aquarium or alligator farm in the South when he becomes too large to be reliably handled.

Mr. Ansell said alligators are sometimes taken as pets because they appear cute when they are smaller. But they can quickly grow to be strong and, even at Golf Course’s age, can take off a person’s finger.

“They’re always going to be dangerous,” Mr. Ansell said, adding that even pets like iguanas and snakes can be dangerous if not properly cared for.

He advised that families looking to purchase a pet, be it a dog, cat, fish or lizard, make sure they do they do their research first.

“People don’t realize what they’re getting into until it’s too late,” he said.

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01/04/12 5:45pm
01/04/2012 5:45 PM

LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM COURTESY PHOTO | Three of Long Island Aquarium’s North American river otters get ready to move west to Utah’s The Living Planet Aquarium.

Three of the North American River Otters born to parents PB&J at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead are leaving their birth home today.

Cinnamon, Pepper, and Cocoa will be transferred to The Living Planet Aquarium in Utah where they will be part of a larger exhibit.

“We will definitely miss their energy and playfulness, but we know that all three brothers will be staying together and entertaining guests at another facility,” said senior mammal trainer Candyce Paparo. “We are sad to see them go, but know that our current exhibit is regulated for a certain number of animals. We also want to prevent breeding with relatives and to help maintain a healthy captive gene pool in aquarium facilities.”

Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, where the otters were born, is home to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, New York’s only authorized marine mammal and sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center.

The Living Planet Aquarium, where the brothers are moving, is one of Utah’s most popular and unique attractions. They have, among their exhibits, a plethora of wildlife including sharks, octopus, eels, sea horses, and amphibians. Because Utah is a land-locked state, the aquarium proves a unique venue for people to interact with marine creatures.

Atlantis GM Bryan DeLuca said he wished “to commend our husbandry staff that worked countless hours and showed outstanding dedication in caring for these otters.”

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