Largest Loggerhead Rescued in New England Released at West Dennis Beach

Munchkin, the largest loggerhead sea turtle ever rescued in New England, was released at West Dennis Beach Tuesday evening.

WEST DENNIS – The largest loggerhead turtle ever rescued and rehabilitated in New England was released back into the wild Tuesday evening at West Dennis Beach.

The 330-pounder named Munchkin was found cold stunned by Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary rescuers in late November in Wellfleet.

The adult female was also missing more than half of her front flipper and part of a back flipper, along with injuries to her right eye.

Munchkin was near death, lethargic, emaciated and covered in large barnacles.

The wounds she had suffered were common from an entanglement.

She was transported to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy where she was examined, cleaned up and slowly rewarmed.

Her flipper injuries were mostly healed and were most likely sustained earlier last summer.

She had lost a lot of weight and was only around 300 pounds upon arrival at the sea turtle hospital.

Aquarium veterinarians and biologists worked for months to recover Munchkin from a severe case of anemia.

“Then when she started feeling better she was eating a lot and started gaining weight,” said Linda Lory, a senior biologist with the New England Aquarium.

“We got her off of antibiotics and then we just kept feeding her and then she gained a lot of weight and we knew she was ready to go.”

After a team of aquarium staff placed Munchkin on the beach, she quickly rushed into the water in front of a crowd of hundreds.

“She took off like she was supposed to,” Lory said. “As soon as she smelt that salt water she was ready to go.”

Lory said the release events are the best part of their work.

Water temperatures around Cape Cod finally warmed up to the point where Munchkin could be released back into the wild. She was the first sea turtle released on the Cape this season.

Lory said it was important to save Munchkin and get her back into the water.

“She’s almost at nesting age, so if she keeps heading south to nesting beaches that is what we are hoping for so she can contribute to the population and lay more turtle eggs,” Lory said.

Munchkin was outfitted with a satellite tag which will transmit location and other data to biologists.

Adult loggerheads do not commonly frequent Cape Cod waters, so researchers are curious as to where she will travel over the next several months.

Munchkin’s journey can be tracked here.

Aquarium staff said several more releases will be conducted in the following weeks.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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