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ESR prepress abstract   -  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. Robinson*, Kayla Deguzman, Lisa Bonacci-Sullivan, Robert A. DiGiovanni Jr. , Theodora Pinou

*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 into 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. All 3 species followed previously reported migratory routes for these species, migrating to either the coastal waters off the southeast USA or the 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.