Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center successfully releases final Cold Stunned New England Sea Turtle

The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center has released the final cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtle from a group of 16 that they received on December 17, 2021.  

  • On Thursday, August 25, 2022, Turtle 473 was transported to Fort Clinch State Park, Florida, as determined by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), to be released into the Atlantic Ocean.

The group of 16 sea turtles arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center after being stranded off the coast of New England during a mass cold-stun event. They were transported by private plane to the local area, courtesy of volunteer pilots at Turtles Fly Too, a nonprofit organization that provides air transportation for rescued endangered species to rehabilitation locations.

Upon arrival at the C.A.R.E. Center, each individual received an initial health assessment. They were checked for energy levels and their carapace, plastron, and flippers were examined for any injuries, according to the C.A.R.E. Center. 

The turtle’s temperatures and heart rates were recorded, and bloodwork was taken to get a better insight into each turtle’s health. Over the following days, the turtles underwent swim-tests and were given full, extensive exams, including x-rays. Once their health was fully assessed, a treatment plan was put in place for each individual turtle by the rehabilitation center’s veterinary team.

Turtle 473 heads back into the ocean after prolonged rehabilitation at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. (The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park)

According to the C.A.R.E. Center, all of the sea turtles received antibiotics during their rehabilitation to aid in their recovery. Once the sea turtles were doing well, had gained weight, and were able to eat without assistance, they were deemed ready for release by the FWC. 

Turtle 473’s visit at the C.A.R.E. Center was prolonged due to an osteomyelitis bone infection in its ulna bone within the front left flipper. Surgery was required by the veterinarian team to remove the necrotic tissue and clean the area to allow healing.

“We are so happy to finally see turtle 473 head back into the ocean,” states Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. “Kemp’s ridleys are the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, so anything that we can do to try to conserve this precious species is vital. We are so thankful for everyone involved who has helped us to provide the best possible veterinary care for these turtles that came to us from the Northeastern seaboard of the Atlantic due to a cold-stun event”

According to Siegfried, sea turtles are ectothermic, meaning they rely on the environmental temperature to regulate their body temperature. 

  • Cold stunning occurs when a sea turtle is exposed to cold water for an extended period of time. 
  • This exposure causes their heartrate to decrease, resulting in the turtle becoming lethargic and often unable to eat.

The C.A.R.E. Center reports that cold stunning events, where large numbers of sea turtles become stranded, are not unusual in Northern areas during the months of November through February as water temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

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