Stranded sea turtle rescued off Cape Cod returns to the ocean


PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (WPRI) — A leatherback sea turtle that became stranded in a mudflat along a Cape Cod estuary is back in the ocean where he belongs.

The Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary responded to the Herring River Sunday for reports of a stranded leatherback sea turtle.

When volunteers arrived, the 600-pound male turtle was alert and responsive, according to Mass Audubon.

After assessing the situation, Mass Audobon opted to contact the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the New England Aquarium for assistance.

The turtle was transferred from the Herring River to Provincetown, where Dr. Charles Innis, director of animal health at the New England Aquarium, evaluated and tagged him.

“Our initial evaluation indicated that the turtle was very strong and in good body condition, and this helped us to decide that it was a good candidate for release,” Innis said.

The turtle was then successfully released back into the ocean with a crowd cheering him on.

Dr. Kara Dodge, a research scientist for the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, said the turtle is being tracked with a satellite “pop-up” tag, which will help determine if he survives the next 30 days.

He was also outfitted with an acoustic receiver which will track his migration patterns over the next five to 10 years.

“When working with stranded sea turtles in New England, it’s a rarity to have a turtle that is in such good condition,” Dodge said. “We suspect this leatherback got disoriented in the tidal flats of Wellfleet and we feel optimistic that it will survive.”

This wasn’t the first leatherback sea turtle to be rescued off Cape Cod so far this month. Last Thursday, Innis, Dodge and volunteers with the New England Aquarium rescued a female leatherback sea turtle that was entangled in fishing gear.

That turtle was also tagged to assess survivorship and track her migration patterns.

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