Nate the Great still transmitting!

Exciting news from the Rescue Team! One of our satellite-tagged turtles released a year ago is still transmitting! How many of you remember turtle #156, also known as Nate the Great?

Nate the Great stranded in early December 2012. He was dangerously cold, at only 49 degrees Fahrenheit, and extremely underweight. This turtle had kidney function abnormalities for many months. He also took a very long time to swim on his own.

During his nine months in rehabilitation, this turtle became a staff and volunteer favorite. He enjoyed interacting with the volunteers by making his presence known especially when cleaning his tank. Often times he would brush himself up against the vacuum hose or scrub brush, using those items to clean his shell. Green turtles in the wild are often observed doing this on rocks and corals.

By the time of his release in August of 2013, Nate the Great was a typical fat Green sea turtle. He was satellite-tagged and released out of Cape Cod.

Since his release, Nate has travelled south hugging the coast and it appears has stayed in south Florida peninsula since November 2013. He has travelled nearly 3,000 miles and is still transmitting today, 371 days later. Continue following him on SeaTurtle.org!

This post was written by our guest bloggers, Jill and Michelle, who are Rescue volunteers and have cared for Nate the Great!


3 Endangered Sea Turtles released from Cape Cod

Along with our partners at the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, we had a great day releasing endangered sea turtles back into the ocean. 

Photo above: New England Aquarium volunteers carry the turtles to the release site in front of a cheering crowd

Many of you who follow this blog already know that these turtles stranded back in the fall as the water temperatures in Cape Cod Bay began to plummet.  Mass Audubon staff and trained volunteers walk the beaches in a coordinated effort at every high tide rescuing sea turtles form the frigid wind chill.  Today many of the Mass Audubon staff and volunteers were on hand to help release and cheer  the turtles they rescued crawl down the beach into the ocean. 

Left and Below: Dennis Murley from the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary lifts a green sea turtle from the transport carrier.  On the right, Dennis shows the turtle to the public before the turtle crawls down the beach and into the ocean.
Above: Aquarium sea turtle research partner, Dr. Kara Dodge, and her daughter observe a green sea turtle at the release
Above: Dr. Leslie Neville, New England Aquarium veterinarian, shows a green turtle to the crowd

Above:  Mass Audubon sea turtle volunteer Michael Lach and his children, Skylar and Sage, prepare to release an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.  This little team of volunteer beach walkers has rescued a lot of sea turtles so this was a special day for them to return a healthy turtle back into the ocean

The crowd watches as an Atlantic green sea turtle makes it's way down the beach toward the ocean

An Atlantic green sea turtle with a satellite tag enters the surf

An endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle with a satellite tag makes its way across the sand to the ocean
We gathered all the sea turtle staff and volunteers that were at this release for a group photo. This is a fraction of the people who help Mass Audubon and the New England Aquarium rescue, transport, rehab and release these threatened and endangered sea turtles.

You can follow the tracks of these turtles or adopt them here.

Watching these turtles crawl down the beach and enter the ocean after eight months of rehabilitation was gratifying and verifying for all who help rescue, transport and rehab these turtles.  It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with so many people who are dedicated to the conservation of the these important sentinels of the sea.

- Connie


Kaboom and her four pool mates are back in the wild!


It is with great pleasure that we share the story of five more endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles that were released back into the ocean. With help from our partners at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Staff from the Assateague Island State Park, we had a spectacular day!

Above: New England Aquarium Senior Biologist, Julika Wocial, prepares to release an endangered Kemp's ridley back to the ocean.

Above left: Assateague Island Park Rangers bring the turtles onto the beach. Above right: National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) volunteer Chuck Erbe keeps the public at a safe distance while the turtle truck backs onto the beach

It takes many organizations working together and hundreds of dedicated volunteers to make days like this possible.  From the volunteer beach walkers at the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay who walk the beaches in the late fall and early winter to find these turtles, to the volunteer turtle drivers who drive them up to the New England Aquarium sea turtle hospital, to all the volunteers that help us with the rehabilitation, to the other Aquariums and rehab centers who accept turtles into their centers.  The efforts of the network make this possible. Today we thank them all for their dedication to the conservation of endangered sea turtles!

Photos above: Julika Wocial thanks all our partners, especially the National Aquarium and the Assateague Island State Park for helping us release these turtles.

Photos above: Julika Wocial from NEAq and Chuck Erbe from NAIB prepare to release two endangered Kemp's ridley turtles in front of approximately 300-400 very excited people on the beach

Photos above:  It takes a lot of caring and dedicated people to save a species.  We called out to our friends and partners at the National Aquarium to help us with this release.  Above on the left is NAIB volunteer Chuck Erbe giving a close up view to onlookers.  Photo on the right is NAIB volunteer Ellen Erbe helping with crowd control and education as Julika gives the public a close up look at an endangered sea turtle

I got a little carried away behind the camera because I didn't want you to miss out on the event.  It is always a challenge replicating the magic of the day through photos.  Please consider the following as you view the next few sets of photos:  A strong breeze filled with the smell of salt air, cheering crowds as the turtles crawled back into the ocean and smiling faces all around.

I added the photos below because I was deeply touched by the beauty of Assateague Island State Park.  As I was photographing the release I noticed a wild pony walking up the beach toward the crowd.  Wild ponies are protected and the park rangers have a wonderful and gentle approach; they steered him around the crowd and he meandered on down the beach. The rangers took wonderful care of us and the turtles; they have true passion and dedication for conservation.

The photo above on the left shows the curious pony walking on the beach toward the crowd, perhaps he too wanted to see the little turtles head back out to sea? I took the photo on the right as we exited the park.  These ponies were grazing peacefully along the shore.  Assateague Island State Park is stunning beautiful and the ponies make for a special treat.

Above the release team stops for a much needed "refueling" after a long day transporting and releasing endangered turtles.  Yes, the Green Turtle is a real restaurant,  quite appropriate for this team of turtlers!

Once again, we thank all who made this day possible from the long list above.  Special thanks go to the Assateague Island State Park and the National Aquarium in Baltimore for their help making this event possible.  

Stay tuned to this blog... perhaps there will be photos of another release sometime next week.... perhaps.

- Connie


More 2013 turtles on their way home!

As staff are busy preparing for the upcoming release, guest bloggers Deborah and Liz will fill you in on several turtles being released this week.

Kaboom receiving one of his final exams for rehabilitation!

After nine long months of rehabilitation Poppy Porcupine (#41), Cheeri O’ Leary (#42), Kaboom (#67), and Honey Combs (#16) are set to be released off the coast of Maryland this Friday! It takes a tremendous effort from the rescue team to ensure that these animals recover from the conditions of cold stun and disease. Every animal that enters the NEAQ rehab facility has their own story and their own vast oceans to swim to reach recovery, but thankfully for most the end result is a victorious reunion with the salty seas.

Poppy Porcupine and Cheeri O’Leary were two of the smallest turtles of the 2013-2014 season when they entered the facility in November.

 BEFORE: Poppy Porcupine (1.75kg)

AFTER: Poppy Porcupine during a routine daily exam

BEFORE: Cheeri O’Leary (1.15kg)

AFTER: Cheery O'Leary during a recent routine daily exam

Currently weighing in at 3.95kg and4.50 kg, Poppy Porcupine and Cheery O'Leary both have more than doubled their initial weight!

At 4.90kg, Kaboom is feeling feisty and ready to go back to her home in the big blue.

Kaboom was a particularly worrisome case when she arrived back in November, cold stunned and riddled with severe pneumonia that seemed a near impossible hurdle for the little 2.35 kg turtle to leap. Despite the odds Kaboom has made a full recovery. Read about some of her treatments and recovery.

BEFORE: Honey Combs

Honey Combs during treatment

AFTER: Eight months later and Honey Comb is another triumphant turtle
ready to surf 
the waves of Maryland with all four flippers!
Honey Combs was another victim of a severe case of pneumonia. Due to the severity and persistence of the pneumonia two months after admission to the facility, the turtle underwent a bronchoscopy. During that procedure a biopsy of the infected tissue was taken.

Stay tuned for more news about the release!


A seal is on the beach: Who do you call?

Please note: It is normal for seals to rest out of the water!
Seal resting on the beach

Guest Bloggers and in-house volunteers Emily and Melissa were the main contributors to this blog.

It is summertime in New England, which means more interactions between seals and people as the beaches fill up with swimmers and sunbathers. Harbor seals and gray seals are our year-round, native species, and they will rest on the beach to warm up after foraging in the cooler water.

The majority of seals seen on the beaches are usually less than one year old. They tend to be thinner because they have weaned from their mothers and are still building up body fat. Due to their young age they tend to be naive to good haul out locations and feeding grounds.

The New England Aquarium’s response area ranges from Salem, MA, to Plymouth, MA. If you encounter a seal on the beach within this territory, please call our Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Hotline at 617-973-5247.  This number can also direct you to other marine mammal hotlines in New England by choosing the correct option. 

However to reach a specific marine mammal stranding response agency we have listed geographic areas with the corresponding agency below.
  • North of Rockport, Maine: College of the Atlantic - (800) 532-9551
  • South of Rockport, Maine: Marine mammals of Maine - (800) 532-9551
  • New Hampshire: Sea Coast Science Center - (603) 997-9448
  • Salisbury, MA to Beverly, MA (INCLUDING CAPE ANN): NOAA: (866) 755-6622
  • Cape Cod and Southeastern, MA: IFAW- (508)743-9548
  • Martha's Vineyard: NOAA - (866) 755-6622
  • Nantucket: NOAA - (866) 755-6622
  • Rhode Island and Connecticut: Mystic Aquarium - (860) 572-5944 x107 

Every seal reported within New England Aquarium’s territory will be monitored by the staff and trained field volunteers. Not every seal that is reported will need to be brought to a facility for rehabilitation.

Seal in banana posture

This harbor seal is in a normal resting position called the “banana posture.” Based on the photo, there are no concerns about the health of this seal. 

Resting harbor seal

Here is another photo of a harbor seal resting on the beach. You can see that he is thinner than the previous seal. One common concern is that the seal is a baby that should still be with his mother, but they only nurse for approximately 4 weeks before they are weaned. This seal is independent and may have just started learning how to forage for fish.

Harbor seal

This harbor seal is looking at the photographer. This means that the photographer is too close since the seal has been alerted by his or her presence. This seal is thin like the previous seal, but you can see between the rear flippers and in the sand that she has defecated recently, indicating successful foraging.

Gray seal

Here is a gray seal in good body condition. The photographer here is too close since the seal’s mouth is open. Seals can and will bite if they feel threatened. They can also carry diseases that can be easily transmitted to dogs, as well as humans. This is one of many reasons to keep your distance from a seal resting on the beach.

Stressed gray seal

This gray seal is not being shy but is in fact stressed by the presence of the photographer.  Seals will wave a flipper, scratch their head or cover their eyes if they are feeling stressed. Seals will also shiver if they are being stressed. You do not want to put a blanket on a shivering seal. It may appear cold, but seals can overheat and die if they are covered.

This gray seal needs help, call the appropriate rescue team

This gray seal would warrant an immediate field response as it is entangled with marine debris around his neck.

A gray seal with a head wound needs professional response

The rescue team wears appropriate safety gear for working with these wild animals

This harbor seal has a wound on his head that also warranted an immediate field response. Note that the New England Aquarium response team is wearing leather gloves, eye protection, and a face mask due to the diseases that can be transferred between seals and people.

— Emily and Melissa