Forty-five endangered sea turtles were flown to Florida and Georgia Monday to finish their recovery after being stranded in Cape Cod Bay’s frigid water.
The move will make room in the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, which says it needs the space ahead of what could be a cold weekend that could leave many more turtles stranded on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay.
The turtles being moved are loggerheads and Kemp’s ridleys, the world’s most endangered sea turtle, the aquarium said in a news release issued Monday.
After washing ashore and being rescued, the turtles were rewarmed and medically stabilized in Quincy, but they will receive the rest of their treatment at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Gulf World Marine Park in Florida.
Most turtles need to be rehabilitated for two to four months, but some stay in the hospital for up to 10 months, the aquarium said.
These strandings are part of a large-scale sea turtle stranding event that happens every year in November and December, the aquarium said. Juvenile sea turtles visit the north side of Cape Cod to feed on crabs each summer. Many get stuck and are unable to find their way out of the bay.
As water temperatures drop, they become hypothermic and inactive, leaving them unable to feed themselves. They develop serious illnesses, including severe dehydration, pneumonia, blood disorders, kidney problems, and shell and bone fractures. The lucky ones wash ashore and are rescued by the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the past two weeks, the Sanctuary has saved 110 sea turtles that were then taken to the aquarium’s sea turtle hospital.