WELLFLEET, MASS. (WHDH) - A 5 foot long, 600-pound leatherback turtle was released back into the ocean on Tuesday after it became stranded on Cape Cod over the weekend.
On Sunday, Mass. Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary responded to a report of a live leatherback on a mudflat along the Herring River in Wellfleet and the volunteers worked to keep the animal from drifting even further into danger, according to Bob Prescott, director emeritus for the sanctuary.
“We wanted to keep it off the oysters and keep it from stranding somewhere we couldn’t rescue it. If it got away, there was no telling where it would strand next,” he said.
The sanctuary reached out to the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the New England Aquarium for help and the turtle was brought to safety.
He was taken to Herring Cove in Provincetown where Rescue and Animal Health staff from the Aquarium checked him out.
“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,” said Dr. Charles Innis, director of animal health at the New England Aquarium.
Staff placed some small identification tags on the turtle before he was released back into the ocean.
“When working with stranded sea turtles in New England, it’s a rarity to have a turtle that is in such good condition. We suspect this leatherback got disoriented in the tidal flats of Wellfleet and we feel optimistic that it will survive, thanks to the collective rescue efforts of this fantastic group of colleagues,” said Dr. Kara Dodge, a research scientist at the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.
Leatherbacks are among the most highly migratory animals on earth, according to the Aquarium. They travel about 10,000 miles or more a year. The turtles will be in Massachusetts waters through the month of October.
Any boaters who spot an entangled leatherback turtle are asked to please call the Center for Coastal Studies hotline at 1-800-900-3622 or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16.
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