A 655-pound sea turtle, describe as a "swimming dinosaur" has been released into the waters of Cape Cod after it was rescued earlier this week.
The enormous 7-foot-long leatherback turtle was found stuck in the mud in Pamet Harbor in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Rescuers had to bring in a transport cart that is usually used to move dolphins to lift the turtle into a truck on Thursday morning.
The turtle, which is an endangered species, was in bad shape when it was taken to the New England Aquarium. Despite weighing 655 pounds, a normal weight for the species is 1,000 pounds. Spokesman Tony LaCasse said that the male turtle's flipper was cut up from a possible run-in with a boat or a predator. A straight line of damaged tissue may also indicate that it got caught in a boat's mooring or fishing line.
The turtle's injuries could have led to an infection and could have kept it from being able to find food. It was treated at the New England Aquarium's Marine Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA and given medications to balance its blood and oxygen levels.
After an initial exam, the turtle was wrapped in a Velcro harness and placed in a large tank. The harness was used to keep the turtle from swimming into one of the walls of the tank and to prevent it from injuring itself further.
When it regained its strength, the turtle was released in Harwichport on Saturday.
It is very rare for leatherback turtles to be rescued because they are open-ocean turtles and cannot live in captivity. About 20 of these turtles have died in the waters off New England this season due to run-ins with boats and predators. The aquarium has only handled five of these types of turtles that were stranded in the past 40 years.
"The choices were really to euthanize him, keep him in rehabilitation, or release him," Dr. Charles Innis told the Daily Mail. "'He was too strong to euthanize, and too strong to keep. ... We elected to release him, but with a little discomfort."
Leatherbacks dwell around Cape Cod in June as they feed on jellyfish in the waters there. They start to migrate south in the fall months.