More than 60 turtles stranded on Cape Cod beaches have been rescued so far this fall and taken to New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, as rescue workers face new challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, the aquarium said Thursday.
At Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, employees and volunteers scour the beaches for turtles stunned by the cold weather, sometimes suffering hypothermia and malnutrition, and take them to the sea turtle hospital, the aquarium said in a statement.
Though the season has just begun, 66 turtles have been treated so far, including Kemp’s ridleys, loggerheads, and leatherbacks, and more are expected in the coming days, the aquarium said.
“The lingering warm temperatures this autumn kept the water temperature just above the threshold for sea turtles. The sudden drop in temperature and winds on Tuesday seemed to kick-start the season, which is now well underway,” Connie Merigo, manager of the aquarium’s more Marine Animal Rescue Department, said in the statement.
Pandemic social distancing requirements mean that rescuers must work 6 feet apart, adding additional challenges to their work, the aquarium said.
After the turtles are stable, they are taken to rehabilitation facilities along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, according to the statement. Aquarium researchers tag the cold-stunned turtles before they are released into the wild, and they are tracking the movements of six rehabilitated animals that were released during the summer.