25 Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles In Aquarium Care

25 Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles In Aquarium Care
The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program continues to care for 25 cold-stunned sea turtles, like the one pictured above. Photo Courtesy National Aquarium

OCEAN CITY – Frigid temperatures forecasted for this weekend will likely only contribute to a cold-stunning season for sea turtles and marine mammals already in full swing with 25 already admitted to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for rehabilitation.

Each year, hundreds of sea turtles and other marine mammals suffer from cold-stunning when they hit patches of extremely cold water during their typical migration patterns to warmer climates. The cold water literally stuns the creatures to the point their bodies start to shut down.

It’s not unusual and it happens every year around this time throughout the mid-Atlantic and up and down the east coast but early this season, the problem appears to be particularly acute. The National Aquarium’s Animal Health and Rescue teams are already busy caring for 25 cold-stunned sea turtles that were rescued along the east coast, including 13 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and 12 green sea turtles.

“While cold-stunning is a natural occurrence, reporting incidents can help protect these animals and the public,” said Maryland Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Program Coordinator Amanda Weschler this week.

The rescued turtles have been transferred to the National Aquarium’s Response and Rehabilitation Care Center in Baltimore for treatment, and hopefully, a future release back into the wild. Because of its close proximity to the aquarium in Baltimore, rehabilitated sea turtles and other marine mammals including seals are often released from the beaches in Ocean City and Assateague Island.

Each of the 25 sea turtles currently under care at the National Aquarium has received a number and a corresponding name to track their individual progress toward eventual release. As part of an annual tradition, the aquarium chooses a theme for naming the rehabilitating sea turtles and this year’s theme is a reminder of somewhere warm – beach destinations. For example, the green sea turtle names include Siesta, La Jolla and Carmen, while the Kemp’s ridleys names include Dewey, Waikiki and Juno.

In addition to preparing the recently named sea turtles for release in the coming months, the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team is also providing long-term rehabilitation to a loggerhead turtle nicknamed Glockenspiel, which was rescued in August. Glockenspiel is being treated for pneumonia and is being encouraged to learn natural foraging.

The majority of the rescued turtles are recovering from ailments commonly associated with cold-stunning including pneumonia, respiratory distress, dehydration, infection and emaciation. As their rehabilitation continues, the Animal Health and Rescue teams are providing around-the-clock care to each of the turtles, all working toward the greater goal of returning the sea turtles back to their natural habitat. Some could be ready to be re-released as soon as February.

The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program is responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the nearly 3,190 miles of Maryland coast and works with stranding partners throughout the Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Network to help respond, rescue and release animals year-round. The aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team continues to remain on call to provide care to stranded marine mammals throughout Maryland year-round. Cold-stunning can be lethal to both marine mammals and sea turtles, so rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild are always considered success stories.

Since 1991, National Aquarium Animal Rescue has rehabilitated and released 363 animals including 300 endangered sea turtles.

Anyone who sees an unresponsive or lethargic sea turtle or marine mammal in Maryland waters or on shore is urged to contact the Maryland Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 800-628-9944. The hotline is manned around the clock, 365 days a year.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.