A green sea turtle named Quiddick that was rescued from the chilly waters of Cape Pogue Pond 11 months ago reentered Vineyard waters last Friday as a fully recovered wild animal.
A crew of New England Aquarium personnel, together with a veterinarian with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries service in Woods Hole, watched with pleasure as Quiddick and an even more rare Kemp's Ridley sea turtle named Kiwi moved from the beach to the surf. The release took place in the early afternoon at Long Point Wildlife Refuge, owned by The Trustees of Reservations.
Looking a bit space-age, both turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters so research scientists can monitor their progress south and learn more about their movements through the ocean.
Each fall cold-stunned sea turtles are stranded in Cape Cod Bay as they try to swim south for the winter. They often end up on the beach, and if they are not rescued they will die. An extensive sea turtle rescue program with trained volunteers is in place to protect the endangered or threatened animals. Kiwi was recovered on the Cape last year, and like Quiddick was transferred to the New England Aquarium in Boston, for treatment and rehabilitation. As many as 100 sea turtles are found in and around the bay each fall. It is, however, unusual for a sea turtle to be found on the Vineyard, especially one that is alive.
Quiddick was found inside Cape Pogue Bay by Chilmark naturalist Allan Keith. Under normal circumstances the public is prohibited from touching any marine sea turtle alive or dead on the beach; people are instead urged to notify the communications center so trained help can be sent. Sea turtles, like all marine mammals, are protected and there are severe fines for anyone caught transporting one. But Mr. Keith explained afterwards that he felt there was no other option, so he took the animal. He said seagulls might have started feeding on the stunned animal. He transported the turtle to the Vineyard Veterinary Clinic in Edgartown, where Dr. Bridget Dunnigan, a veterinarian took over. She works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Woods Hole Science Aquarium. She also named the turtle Quiddick.
Connie Merigo, a coordinator for the marine animal rescue program at the New England Aquarium, said Quiddick was a model patient at the aquarium. Quiddick also spent time at the Woods Hole Aquarium. She said South Beach on the Vineyard had been chosen for the release of the sea turtles because it gave them clear passage to the waters south. She said ordinarily the turtles are released at Osterville, where they swim into Nantucket Sound. But she said scientists looked at a map and decided Long Point Wildlife Refuge seemed like an even better place.
Allan Keith and his wife Winkie watched the two turtles as they disappeared in the surf. "It is great to see them back in the water," Mr. Keith said.
Mrs. Keith said: "I hope he gets to be 600 pounds. I was told that is how big a green turtle will get."
While Quiddick was a favorite because of its previous Vineyard connection, Mr. Keith said he was impressed to see Kiwi. "I've never seen a Kemp's Ridley turtle, even in captivity," he said.
Kiwi and Quiddick have been monitored closely since they left the Vineyard. Kiwi is already heading south and by mid-week was off Block Island and Long Island. Quiddick has been hanging around Noman's Land.
The web site www.seaturtle.org has a page devoted to each of the two sea turtles. Anyone with access to the Internet can track the movements of Kiwi and Quiddick as they swim away.