Leatherback Turtle Saved Near Cape Cod
"Did you know that one of the largest living reptiles on the planet can be found in New England’s ocean? Leatherback turtles, like the one shown above, can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and grow to 11 feet long. They are true ocean cruisers – you can tell by their giant flippers that they are built to cover great distances. They are at home from the tropics to Newfoundland and have been observed traveling almost 13 thousand miles in under two years. One of the reasons they wander is in search of their favorite food – sea jellies, and we have a lot of those in New England in the late summer and early fall.
As a vivid reminder that these sea-faring turtles enjoy our Gulf of Maine waters, last September an enormous leatherback was found, stranded, near the tip of Cape Cod. Normally, there is a well-oiled turtle rescue and rehabilitation machine in New England – Mass Audubon Society volunteers transport the turtles to New England Aquarium facilities for treatment and release back into the wild – but they are used to dealing with much smaller turtles, usually well under 100 pounds."
A team from the New England Aquarium handled the rescue of this large animal. Their site said the turtle came in "near death" with half its right flipper cut off, though relatively healed, and blood values including glucose and oxygen very low. The 655 pound male was released from a boat, a couple of miles off of Harwichport, MA., a few days later, after being rehabbed, in much more stable condition.
"Head veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis and rescue director Connie Merigo, who together have overseen the rehabilitation of nearly a thousand sea turtles of smaller species, had worked with University of New Hampshire sea turtle researcher Kara Dodge over the past several summers capturing 400 to 1000 pound plus leatherbacks swimming off the Cape and Islands. The brief captures on to the back of a fishing boat allowed the scientists to do physical exams and collect tissue samples on healthy animals that are not available anywhere else. Little did they realize that they would use that information so soon."
A satellite tag was affixed to the turtle and after heading to the east end of Nantucket, a spot known for high amounts of jellies, its perferred food, the turtle was last known to be off Bermuda.