JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three dozen sea turtles were released Wednesday into the waters off Little Talbot Island after spending months on the mend in captivity.
The rescued turtles have come a long way. They spent months healing at several facilities across the Northeast, including the National Aquarium in Baltimore, after they were rescued last winter.
Most of the turtles were found stranded and cold-stunned in the waters off the coast of Massachusetts in November and December, said Kate Shaffer, rehabilitation manager for the National Aquarium.
"As ectothermic, or cold-blooded, animals, their body temperature relies on the temperature of their surroundings. So when the temps there drop too low and they can't find their way out of Cape Cod Bay, they hit the beaches," said Shaffer.
She said the vast majority of the turtles released are Kemp's Ridley, the most endangered species. Green sea turtles and a lone Loggerhead were also among the rest of the rescued turtles returning to the wild.
Though it was a celebratory occasion, Shaffer acknowledged the releases bring about mixed emotions.
"We do get attached to them in way, but our end goal is always to put them back in the ocean," she said.
Beachgoers may notice more sea turtles nesting on the beach during the spring and summer months. If you spot a turtle, you're encouraged to contact your local turtle patrol or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission so they can monitor the nests.