Leah Bares and her husband went for a walk at the beach in Plymouth on Monday with Veda, their huge, fuzzy Newfoundland. Veda was walking a bit ahead of them when she spotted something camouflaged in the sand and seaweed.
“She stopped in her tracks, looked at us, looked at the turtle, looked at us again, and then sat down and waited for us to make our way over there,” she said.
That’s right, a 40-pound loggerhead turtle with a head, Bares says, that was the size of a coffee can. She’d never seen anything like it outside of an aquarium – and certainly not in January. She says the dog kept laying down in the sand a few feet from the turtle, as if to block the wind.
“When she saw us react I think she realized that this was something that was very special, and she needed to protect it," Bares said. "And that’s why she laid by its side.”
Bares called a friend who was a marine biologist, who came and brought the loggerhead to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy. The aquarium’s spokesperson.
Tony LaCasse, says when sea turtles get stranded, it’s usually on the Cape.
“To have a live loggerhead coming out of Plymouth was a surprise but it was a double surprise because that animal, that 40-pound loggerhead was the latest stranding of a sea turtle that we have ever had in 25 years at the New England Aquarium.”
Sea turtles should have migrated south by now, but they can get stuck in Cape Cod Bay. This year, the aquarium has rescued about 300 of them – three times more than usual. They’re not sure why there have been so many, but it could just be because the population is booming. Even so, by this time of year, any turtles still up here are usually dead.
“This year, we’ve had incredibly warm water late into the early winter in Cape Cod Bay,” LaCasse said.
LaCasse said water temperatures are increasing more quickly in this area than almost anywhere in the world, so we’re likely to start seeing dramatic changes in the ocean environment. As for the Plymouth loggerhead, he’s been named after the species of dog whose discovery led to the rescue – Newfie.
“So this guy has finished his rewarming process," he said. "He just got introduced into a big tank with other loggerheads that are recovering.”
And when he’s ready, the New England Aquarium will arrange to have Newfie flown south, where he can be released in the nice warm water.