The sea turtle hospital at the New England Aquarium in Quincy has treated more than 150 hypothermic sea turtles that have been rescued from the shores of Cape Cod Bay, officials said in a statement Monday.
The 120 Kemp’s ridley turtles and 33 green turtles, which got caught in the ‘hook’ of the cape and were too cold to swim out, were rescued by staff and volunteers of the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in a rescue mission that began around Nov. 18, the aquarium said in the statement.
Each cold-stunned turtle is picked up, brought indoors, and kept in a warm climate. They are then taken to the aquarium or the National Marine Life Center, where they are given physical exams, bloodwork, x-rays, and heart rate and respiratory tests, the aquarium said. Many of these turtles are dehydrated and have pneumonia.
“All of our sea turtle patients receive individualized care based on their condition,” Dr. Charles Innis, the aquarium’s director of animal health, said in the statement. “Depending on the severity, turtles may need weeks, months, and sometimes more than a year of treatment before they are at a point where we can clear them for release back into the ocean.”
Sea turtles have been swimming further north than they ever have, according to Bob Prescott, director emeritus of the Wellfleet Bay sanctuary. He said in an interview last week the turtles end up in the bays of Massachusetts, and as the water becomes chillier, they become stunned and unable to swim against the wind.
“In years past, cold-stunned sea turtles would begin to wash ashore in late October,” Adam Kennedy, the aquarium’s director of rescue and rehabilitation, said in the statement. “Milder weather means the waters of Cape Cod Bay are staying warmer for a prolonged period of time, which we believe could be a sign of climate change’s impact on the Gulf of Maine.”
Volunteer pilots with a non-profit organization, Turtles Fly Too, transported over 40 turtles to aquariums in South Carolina, Georgia, and New York, to make room for more acutely ill turtles at the New England Aquarium, the statement said. A dozen more turtles were driven to Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium.
Some turtles remain in critical condition and will stay at the Quincy aquarium until they can be released during the summer, the aquarium said.
Anyone who finds a sea turtle stranded on the beach should call the Wellfleet Bay hotline at 508-349-2615 x6104, so a trained rescuer can come and pick it up, according to the sanctuary.