Sea turtles rescued off Cape Cod moved to Florida Keys

In this late Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, one of 15 critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles peers from its rehabilitation tub after being flown from New England to the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Fla. The turtles were rescued from coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., suffering from cold stunning. They were initially treated by New England Aquarium personnel and then transported to the Keys by a group of volunteer general aviation pilots dubbed "Sea Turtle Lift Off." Most have been diagnosed with pneumonia and need treatment including the opportunity to warm up in the Keys. (Larry Benvenuti/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)
In this late Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, veterinarians Doug Mader and Helen Ingraham examine a critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle flown from New England to the hospital in Marathon, Fla., after being rescued from coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., suffering from cold stunning. Fifteen turtles were transported to the Keys by a group of volunteer general aviation pilots who call themselves "Sea Turtle Lift Off." Most of the turtles have been diagnosed with pneumonia. Their treatment is to consist of administering antibiotics, vitamins, food and providing habitats with warm water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. (Larry Benvenuti/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)
In this late Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, staff at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, including from left, Alastir McArthur, Bette Zirkelbach, Richie Moretti and Marika Weber; begin to care for critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown from New England to the hospital in Marathon, Fla., after being rescued from coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., suffering from cold stunning. Most of the 15 turtles transported to the Keys have been diagnosed with pneumonia. Their treatment is to consist of administering antibiotics, vitamins, food and providing habitats with warm water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is hoped they can be released off Florida in one to two months. (Larry Benvenuti/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)
In this late Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach does an initial visual examination of 15 Kemp's ridley sea turtles after they were flown from New England to the hospital in Marathon, Fla. The reptiles were rescued from coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., within the last few weeks suffering from cold stunning. They were transported to the Florida Keys and most have been diagnosed with pneumonia. Their treatment is to consist of administering antibiotics, vitamins, food and providing a habitat with warm water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. (Larry Benvenuti/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)
In this late Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Turtle Hospital staff member Marika Weber begins to treat a critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle flown from New England to the hospital in Marathon, Fla., after being rescued from coastal waters of Cape Cod, Mass., suffering from cold stunning. The turtle is one of 15 transported to the Keys by a group of volunteer general aviation pilots who call themselves "Sea Turtle Lift Off." Most of the turtles have been diagnosed with pneumonia. Their treatment is to consist of administering antibiotics, vitamins, food and providing habitats with warm water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. (Larry Benvenuti/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

MARATHON, Fla. — Fifteen critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles are warming up at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital after being rescued from cold waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The juvenile turtles have pneumonia as a result of "cold stunning" but are expected to make a full recovery, officials said Tuesday. "Cold stunning" is a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged time.

"They came in when the water was warm, and they didn't go out with the Gulf Stream," Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach said of that warmer ocean current. "The cold weather moved in and the turtles didn't get out in time."

The turtles, which range from two to 10 pounds each, were flown Monday night to the Florida Keys from Norwood, Massachusetts. They were transported in towel-lined boxes en route to the Turtle Hospital.

"They're going to be treated at the Turtle Hospital with broad spectrum antibiotics," Zirkelbach said. "We're going to give them vitamins, a healthy diet, and we're going to keep them in warm water, 75 degrees. That will warm them up and let those medications do their work."

The reptiles are likely to be released in waters off Florida after they recover.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the most endangered of all turtle species, Zirkelbach said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its website that the species is most common along the Gulf coasts of Mexico and of such U.S. states as Texas, Louisiana and Florida. It also is found along the Atlantic coast in the Southeast and as far north as New England during the summer and fall.

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Online: Turtle Hospital, http://www.turtlehospital.org

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