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Giant leatherback turtle returned to the sea in Provincetown

A leatherback turtle was safely returned to the ocean after it became stranded on the Herring River in Wellfleet.International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

A 600 pound leatherback turtle has been returned to the sea in Provincetown after it got stuck on a mudflat on a Cape Cod river.

Volunteers from three separate groups rushed to the aid of the five-foot turtle on Sunday after it was reported stuck along the Herring River in Wellfleet, the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary said in a statement Tuesday.

“We wanted to keep it off the oysters and keep it from stranding somewhere we couldn’t rescue it,” said Bob Prescott, the sanctuary’s director emeritus. “If it got away, there was no telling where it would strand next.”


The group contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the New England Aquarium in Boston to relocate the giant turtle to safer waters. The turtle was brought to Herring Cove in Provincetown, where it was examined by aquarium staff, the statement said.

Once determined to be in good health, the turtle was released into the Atlantic, to the cheers of onlookers gathered on the beach.

But the turtle won’t be lost at sea.

Identification tags attached to the turtle will allow researchers to track its survival over the next 30 days. An acoustic tag will track its migration pattern over the next several years.

Dr. Kara Dodge, a research scientist at the aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, praised the volunteers who came to the turtle’s aid.

“We suspect this leatherback got disoriented in the tidal flats of Wellfleet and we feel optimistic that it will survive, thanks to the collective rescue efforts of this fantastic group of colleagues,” Dodge said.

Onlookers cheered as an adult leatherback sea turtle returned to the ocean in Provincetown.New England Aquarium

Katie Redefer can be reached at katie.redefer@globe.com.