Stranded 650-pound leatherback turtle gets a helping hand in Barnstable

The turtle got a helping hand to return to the ocean.
The turtle got a helping hand to return to the ocean.
Ellison Orcutt/ Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

A 650-pound female leatherback sea turtle was found stranded in a marsh by Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable Wednesday morning, and after a medical checkup was ushered back out into the ocean.

The turtle weighed an estimated 650 pounds.
Ellison Orcutt,/Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

A New England Aquarium veterinarian checked the animal’s heart rate and respiration patterns and drew blood to assess the animal’s health.

“Overall, it was healthy, but it was a stressed animal,” said Michael Sprague, the stranded sea turtle assistant at the Mass Audubon Society. The turtle, which was a bit thin, was given vitamins, antibiotics, and an anti-inflamatory drug before being released.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Sprague said the Sandy Neck spit, where the turtle was found, acts as a net for animals, and they have a hard time getting out once they enter. He said it appeared the turtle got caught up in the shallow marsh water.

“Animals aren’t used to water disappearing quickly from under them,” Sprague said.

Officials decided the best course of action was to guide the turtle out to deeper water and keep alert for reports of another stranding, said Nina Coleman, the Sandy Neck park manager for Barnstable.

“There was an incoming tide when we released the turtle, so it all worked organically,” Coleman said.

The turtle, originally tagged in Trinidad, was likely on Cape Cod for the summer to feed before returning to the Caribbean to nest in the next two or three weeks, officials said.

“It swam off very strong when we did release it, so hopefully it will do well,” Sprague said.

Officials from the New England Aquarium, the town parks department and harbormaster’s office, and the Mass Audubon Society all assisted in rescuing the turtle.

Officials said if anyone spots a leatherback turtle in Cape Cod Bay over the next few days to contact them.

“We are very optimistic about her prognosis, but we are still looking to make sure she gets out of Cape Cod Bay,” said Tony LaCasse, aquarium spokesman.