One hundred endangered sea turtles will make the trip from Massachusetts to Mississippi or Florida on Tuesday. They will continue their hypothermia rehabilitation after washing up on the beaches of Cape Cod.
Staff at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary search the beaches for stranded turtles and transport them to the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy and the National Marine Life Center (NMLC) in Bourne for treatment.
Cold-stunned turtles can suffer from life-threatening medical conditions like pneumonia and dehydration because they cannot regulate their body temperature and feed.
The New England Aquarium makes alternative arrangements for the turtles down South as their facilities fill up.
Each year, hundreds of cold-stunned turtles get caught in the quick-changing water temperatures off Massachusetts.
In the past three weeks alone, the team at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital has cared for more than 350 live sea turtles and NMLC has treated 87.
“It’s been happening for many, many, many years. We have the turtles that come into the Cape Cod Bay in the summer, it’s perfect forage, great temperature for them — reminds them of home down South. And then what happens is fall comes along, it’s cold, they start to head south to get into warmer water and of course, given the shape of Massachusetts, they hit that land mass,” said Adam Kennedy, aquarium rescue and rehabilitation manager.
The turtles will eventually be released back into the warmer ocean water.