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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 43:133-143 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01065

Rehabilitated sea turtles tend to resume typical migratory behaviors: satellite tracking juvenile loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley turtles in the northeastern USA

Nathan J. Robinson1,2,*, Kayla Deguzman2, Lisa Bonacci-Sullivan3, Robert A. DiGiovanni Jr.4,5, Theodora Pinou2

1Fundación Oceanogràfic, Ciudad de Las Artes y las Ciencias, Valencia 46013, Spain
2Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, Connecticut 06810, USA
3New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, New York 12233, USA
4Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, Riverhead, New York 11901, USA
5Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, Hampton Bays, New York 11946, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Wildlife rehabilitation programs are widely employed for many endangered marine species and can serve as engaging platforms for environmental outreach. However, their effectiveness at supporting populations in the wild depends on whether rescued animals can survive and reproduce after being released. Here, we assessed whether cold-stunned juvenile sea turtles resumed typical migratory and diving behaviors after rehabilitation. We deployed satellite transmitters onto 7 rehabilitated loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, 12 green turtles Chelonia mydas, and 12 Kemp’s ridley turtles Lepidochelys kempii released around Long Island, New York, USA. Of these 31 turtles, 30 were tracked long enough to determine their migratory movements. The majority (83%) left Long Island before local waters dropped below 14°C and avoided being cold-stunned. Most individuals followed migratory routes previously reported for each of the 3 species, migrating to either coastal waters off the southeast USA or oceanic waters of the Gulf Stream. Rehabilitated turtles of each species also resumed typical diving patterns. Four of the remaining 5 turtles that did not migrate away from Long Island were likely cold-stunned again. Overall, most cold-stunned sea turtles tend to resume typical migratory and diving behavior post-rehabilitation.


KEY WORDS: Wildlife Rehabilitation · Telemetry · Marine Turtles · Conservation · Long Island Sound · Animal Rescue


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Cite this article as: Robinson NJ, Deguzman K, Bonacci-Sullivan L, DiGiovanni RA Jr, Pinou T (2020) Rehabilitated sea turtles tend to resume typical migratory behaviors: satellite tracking juvenile loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley turtles in the northeastern USA. Endang Species Res 43:133-143. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01065

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