After delay, rehabilated Cape Cod turtles arrive in Florida

Warmer-than-usual waters off the coast of New England have delayed strandings this year.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 31, 2015 at 1:23 PM
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BOSTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- After several days of rehabilitation and an airline delay, 50 Kemp's Ridley sea turtles are now in Florida.

The endangered turtles are now 1,500 miles from the frigid Cape Cod beaches where they came to rest, cold-shocked and near death. They were set to swim south earlier this week, but a New England snow storm briefly delayed those plans.

This year, volunteers have rescued more than 300 sea turtles from the beaches of Cape Cod, trapped by the cold and choppy winter waters -- unable to make the migration south with their peers.

"They get on the north side of the Cape, which is sort of a big bucket," New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse told CBS. "They often don't figure the navigation out of there, and if they don't get rescued, they will die. Sea turtles can't handle water temperatures much below 40 degrees."

More than 100 were found just in the last 10 days. This season's rescue efforts were action packed, second only to last year's 733 rescued turtles.

After being nursed back to health at New England Aquarium's animal care facility, the turtles will continue to build up their strength at the Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Fla., before being released back into the ocean.

Moving some of the turtles to Florida will free up space at the Boston aquarium, which is currently overloaded with turtles being nursed back to health.

Warmer-than-usual waters off the coast of New England have delayed strandings this year, and turtles have been found stranded farther north than normal -- in Maine and Nova Scotia.

"This is the first year they've ever been found in Canada," LaCasse said.

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