Four Loggerhead Sea Turtles Rescued From Cape Cod Released in VA
New England Aquarium
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, VA.
June 24, 2014
Four loggerhead sea turtles that had stranded on Cape Cod beaches late last autumn due to hypothermia were released Sunday evening into the warm surf at Assateague Island National Seashore in Virginia by New England Aquarium biologists.
In search of waters near 70 degrees, the Boston-based Aquarium staff spent Sunday driving the juvenile sea turtles to this seaside national park on the Delmarva peninsula, which is famous for its wild horses. Immediately as they drove through the park gates, they noticed that most of the horses sported beautiful chestnut brown coats that closely match the shell color of their own precious cargo.
The 40 to 100 pound sea turtles were unloaded from their travel crates at a beach site cordoned off by staff from Baltimore’s National Aquarium. About 200 spectators looked on as each individual turtle was placed about 25 yards from the water. It had been seven months since these young turtles had experienced the smells, sounds and sights of the ocean. They each waded diligently through the sand and then disappeared into the surf. Two of the loggerheads were outfitted with satellite tags glued to the back of their shells that will transmit their location and dive data over the next 6-9 months.
These loggerheads are among the last of more than 85 sea turtles of three different species that stranded last November and December on the north side of Cape Cod. This several week long mass stranding is an annual event. Scientists believe that many of the young, inexperienced sea turtles that migrate there in the summer to feed on crabs are unable to figure out the difficult navigation to get out of the land bucket created by the enormous peninsula. As waters cool into the low 50’s, the mostly inert turtles are washed up on to Cape beaches.
They are rescued by the volunteers and staff of the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and transported to New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA – just south of Boston. Slowly re-warmed over several days, these sea turtles require months of rehab. Since the 1990’s, more than 1,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles have been rehabilitated and released by the New England Aquarium.