Caring for Stranded Marine Animals
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Patient Update: January 21, 2021

Since our most recent blog post in November, a lot has been going on here at NMLC! We’ve been kept busy by a record-breaking sea turtle stranding season here on Cape Cod. Here’s a quick rundown of some details from this sea turtle season: 

  • A total of 1174 sea turtles were reported by the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary this season. Not all of these turtles were still alive when they were found, but this season did see the highest number of live strandings ever recorded in Cape Cod! Sea turtles that were still alive when collected were transported to triage facilities such as NMLC and the New England Aquarium.
  • A total of 216 sea turtles were admitted to NMLC! To compare, our average is around 30 admits per season. 
  • Two of our patients this year were green sea turtles. We’ve never admitted green sea turtles before, so this was an exciting first!
  • The majority of our sea turtles were transported to long-term rehabilitation facilities around the country. Special thanks to any of the volunteers who offered to drive turtles to other locations, and to the pilots at Turtles Fly Too for volunteering their time and planes to transport these animals! 
  • On December 29th we admitted 10 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles for long-term care at NMLC. These turtles were triaged at New England Aquarium and were stable by the time they arrived at NMLC. 

All of the turtles cared for by NMLC were victims of cold stunning, which occurs when water temperatures become so cold that the turtles’ metabolism slows dramatically and they are too lethargic to swim. This is deadly if not treated and is often seen alongside other conditions, including injuries from being tossed around in the water or illnesses that their bodies are too weak to fight off. It is also common to see dehydration and malnutrition with cold-stunned sea turtles. Our current sea turtle patients are being treated with fluids and medication as needed, as well as topical treatments for any wounds they may have accumulated. They are living in one of our large rehabilitation pools 24/7 and are mostly swimming and eating well! We’ve started using environmental enrichment devices (EEDs) that were specially made for the turtles by volunteers and interns at NMLC, which the turtles really seem to enjoy! 

A close-up of one of our sea turtle patients

 

Sea turtles aren’t the only ones keeping us busy; we also have three seals onsite! Montauk, our harbor seal, has been here the longest of any of our current patients. He was recently deemed non-releasable by the management agency after being rescued three separate times. He was released twice by NMLC, and both times needed to be rescued again after human interactions left him stressed. He had also lost a lot of weight after both releases, which is evidence he probably wasn’t hunting very well. He’s still under a year old and is continuing to grow here at NMLC, and as of 12/22 he weighed a total of 37.8kg (83.3lb). He’s eating regularly, which means he’s steadily gaining  weight. Currently the management agency is looking into placement options for Montauk. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Montauk, hauled out of the water. Next to him is the kelp barrel, one of his favorite environmental enrichment devices!

Grey seal season has officially begun here at NMLC! Our last admit of 2020 was Graves, a grey seal yearling who arrived on December 30th after being rescued on Smith’s Point, Nantucket, by the Marine Mammal Alliance of Nantucket. She was found dehydrated, underweight, lethargic, and had severe wounds from a suspect shark bite. Further examination revealed a number of parasites in her lungs and digestive tract, including roundworms, lungworms, and acanthlocephalans (also known as thorny-headed worms). Her current treatments include fluids, antibiotics, probiotics, gastrointestinal medication , and wound care . She is also being tube fed until she is strong enough to eat on her own, and has access to a heating pad to keep her body temperature at a healthy level. She is mostly quiet and lethargic, but has started showing signs of the feisty attitude that is characteristic to grey seals. We are hopeful this means she is on the right track! 

Graves laying in her pod

 

Grey seal Amphitrite was admitted to NMLC on January 11, and is the first admit of 2021! She’s by far the smallest of our current seal patients, only weighing 12.2kg (26.9lb) at the time of her admit exam. She was rescued in Great Point, Nantucket, after observers waited to see if her mom was nearby. When it became clear her mother could not or would not return, rescuers from the Marine Mammal Alliance of Nantucket carefully collected and transported her to NMLC. She was dehydrated and malnourished when she arrived, so she is being given fluids and electrolytes for hydration and is being tube fed a special formula to ensure she gets all the nutrients she needs. Her umbilicus is infected, and antibiotics and topical betadine treatments have been used to treat the area. Although we don’t know her exact age, we know Amphitrite is less than about three weeks old because came in with her fluffy lanugo coat. In just the few days since her arrival, Amphitrite has already shed most of her lanugo coat and is revealing a grey coat. Grey seal pups grow very quickly, so check back often to see how big she’s getting! 

Amphitrite before shedding her lanugo coat

Amphitrite after shedding her lanugo coat

 

Be sure to follow NMLC on Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok for updates on our patients and events! 

 

Posted by Stevie W. 

 

Stevie is an intern who recently graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor’s degree in marine & aquatic biology. 

4 Comments

  1. Thanks Beth! I called it in one of the times he was found so I feel a bit paternalistic towards the little guy

  2. Hi, James. Thank you for your interest. Montauk is still under our care, waiting for a permanent home. We are hoping that one is found soon!

  3. How is Montauk?

  4. Thank you for this update on the seals at NMLC, Stevie. We look forward to the Saturday updates, too.

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