‘Shell shocked:’ Chilly sea turtles wash up on Boston’s South Shore

A rescued sea turtle is treated at the New England Aquarium.

A record number of stunned sea turtles have washed up on local beaches this year, according to the New England Aquarium, which has taken in two since yesterday.

There have been 164 sea turtles rescued alive this year, smashing the old record of 127 set in 1999.

Hypothermic sea turtles continue to wash up in record numbers on Cape Cod, but in an unusual twist, two large loggerhead sea turtles have stranded on South Shore beaches since Monday. Today, a  Hull animal control officer retrieved a live loggerhead from Nantasket Beach, and on Monday another 40-pounder was rescued in the Humarock section of Scituate.

Strandings on the South Shore are very rare events, according to aquarium officials, and normally are confined to the discovery of long dead, smaller turtles early in the winter.

Earlier in the week, well-meaning but misdirected beach walkers tried to return a hypothermic sea turtle to the frigid waters that it was trying to escape, but aquarium officials said today that people who come across a sea turtle on the South Shore, whether alive or appearing dead, should call the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Hotline at 617-973-5427 or contact their local animal control officer.

Washed-up sea turtles with body temperatures in the 40’s and with heartbeats as low as one per minute may appear dead but can still be re-warmed and revived at the Aquarium’s off-site animal care center in the Quincy Shipyard, according to an aquarium spokesperson.

Aquarium officials are puzzled by the unusual stranding locations but are asking for the public’s help in watching for more turtles on South Shore beaches.

These two loggerheads were easy to see given their fairly large size and chestnut brown shells, however experts say most of the turtles that wash up are much smaller – at 2 to 12 pounds – and black in color.

These turtles are Kemp’s ridleys, which are the most endangered sea turtle in the world.

This past Saturday, 13 hypothermic sea turtles were brought to Quincy from Cape Cod. That is an unusually large number for a single day this late in December.

Among the 13 were 9 loggerhead sea turtles. In a typical year, the Aquarium might treat 4 to 6 large loggerheads in its two month long season.

The two additional South Shore loggerheads over the past 24 hours brings the total number of stranded loggerheads total to 45.  The loggerheads can weigh as much as 100 pounds, so they create a strain on available tank space at the aquarium’s new sea turtle hospital which has a capacity of about 100 sea turtles.


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