Cold-Stunned 350-Pound Loggerhead Turtle Dies After Rescue

The 30-year-old turtle that was found stranded on Cape Cod may have been ill for weeks, or even months.
Fabienne Lang

On Friday, a massive 350-pound (160 kg), 30-year-old loggerhead turtle was found stranded on its back and potentially cold-stunned on a Cape Cod beach in Massachusetts, in the U.S.

It was rescued by experts from the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, along with 150 other, younger, cold-stunned loggerheads. This time of year is well-known for seeing cold-stunned turtles stranded on Massachusetts beaches, but they are usually young, inexperienced turtles, none typically as big as the 350-pounder. 

The older loggerhead was transferred into the care of the New England Aquarium where he was treated over the weekend, reports USA Today. Tragically, the Aquarium announced on its Facebook page that he had died on Tuesday.

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Mass Audubon officials stated that it's rare for such a big loggerhead to be stranded in autumn. Following the necropsy results after its death, New England Aquarium experts explained that "the turtle had been ill for weeks or even months and had reduced body fat, pneumonia, and possible abnormalities in several organs."

His death may not have been linked to cold-stunning, but the latter won't have helped him in his recovery. 

Cold-stunned loggerhead turtles

At this time of year, it's quite common to fall upon such turtles on Cape Cod's beaches. They may appear unresponsive or even dead, but the Mass Audubon team explains what can be done to help them: 

  • Carefully move the turtle, if you can, above the highest tide line so that it doesn’t wash back into the water. Never put the turtle back into the water. 
  • Cover the turtle completely, including the head, with dry seaweed to protect it from the cold, wind, and predators. Never cover any part of the turtle with sand. Mark the spot either with beach debris or by drawing a large arrow in the sand. 
  • Call the Wellfleet Bay turtle hotline at 508-349-2615, extension 6104. Leave your name, phone number, and the name of the beach or closest landing where you found the turtle. The hotline is monitored 24/7 and someone will return your call.

While the older male loggerhead, unfortunately, did not survive, 150 other younger ones have a brighter future

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