Loggerhead Munchkin Spent Holiday off Nantucket, Tracked Near Block Island

Munchkin, the largest loggerhead sea turtle ever rescued in New England, was released at West Dennis Beach July 2.

BOSTON – The island of Nantucket is a draw for visitors, especially for summer holidays, and it seems that may be the case for sea turtles as well.

Munchkin, the 330-pound rehabilitated loggerhead turtle released early last week, spent July 4th and the 5th hanging out of Nantucket.

The New England Aquarium equipped Munchkin with a satellite tag and is tracking the largest sea turtle ever rescued in the region.

After her release, Munchkin swam across Nantucket Sound in just over 30 hours.

She was on a clear track to swim through the channel that separates Nantucket from Martha’s Vineyard and veered veered west toward the Chappaquiddick shore on Martha’s Vineyard at midnight on July 4.

She surfaced there and had multiple readings over a few hours but then turned and swam southeast on a straight line toward Muskeget Island off the western tip of Nantucket.

She remained in that area for a few hours and then swam south to an area a few miles off Nantucket’s southwestern corner where she spent the remainder of the 4th and most of the 5th. She was mostly likely feeding on crabs or sea jellies, which can be found in abundance there.

“Her dive behavior suggests that she is feeding, or at least spending time on the bottom where her food would be,” said Dr. Kara Dodge, a sea turtle ecologist with the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. “She’s been making some long, hour plus, deep dives into colder water, which I’m interpreting as bottom time, which likely includes hunting/feeding.” 

Late on Friday, July 5, Munchkin started steadily swimming west on a straight line about 7 or 8 miles south of the Vineyard.

Munchkin spent much of July 6th and 7th weekend slowly traveling the 20 mile east/west length of the Vineyard.

Late on July 7, she passed by the Gayhead Bluffs on the island’s western end. Just after midnight, she cruised by Nomans Land, a small island off the southwest corner of the Vineyard that is a national wildlife refuge and a critical bird sanctuary.

On Monday, July 8, she had swam past the Islands into open ocean and spent much of the day swimming due west for about 12 miles. Researchers believe she found something interesting and spent the next 17 hours in a small area.

She left the area Tuesday morning and spent the next 24 hours swimming 15 miles west.

Since Wednesday noon, Munchkin has been about six miles southeast of Block Island off the Rhode Island coast.

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.

Water temperatures around Cape Cod finally warmed up to the point where Munchkin could be released back into the wild. On July 2, she was the first sea turtle released on the Cape this season.

Munchkin’s journey can be tracked here.

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 CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.

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