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Cape Cod sea turtle strandings are increasing

A rescued sea turtle at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy. (Courtesy New England Aquarium)
A rescued sea turtle at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy. (Courtesy New England Aquarium)

Sea turtle strandings on Cape Cod are picking up after a slow start to the season, experts at the New England Aquarium said Monday.

The aquarium has so far cared for almost 120 of the animals at its Quincy turtle hospital, the vast majority of which have been endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles. But scientists have also treated eight green turtles and two loggerheads.

The turtles are treated for life-threatening conditions, including pneumonia and dehydration, a result of days or weeks of hypothermia and the inability to feed.

“Early in the season, we typically see the smaller Kemp’s ridley and green turtles. The larger loggerhead turtles will start to wash ashore in December, though we saw our first loggerhead of the season on Thanksgiving Day,” said Charles Innis, the aquarium’s director of animal health.

A rescued sea turtle on a ventilator at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy. (Courtesy New England Aquarium)
A rescued sea turtle on a ventilator at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy. (Courtesy New England Aquarium)

The turtles get trapped in Cape Cod Bay as temperatures drop and wind patterns change, and they quickly become hypothermic. The stranding season started late this year because of temperature fluctuations that kept water in the bay warm.

The turtles are assessed and treated in Massachusetts, a process that can take weeks or even months, before being flown to Southern states for continued rehabilitation and eventual release back into the ocean.

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