Rapid response is crucial to the welfare and potential survival of a live stranded animal. The Stranding Response Team manages a network of cooperating organizations and individuals throughout Virginia to provide for timely and effective stranding response.

The Stranding Response Team rushes rehabilitation candidates to the Aquarium's Marine Animal Care Center where they treat animals for shock and other illness or injuries. Veterinary medical staff, working with advanced diagnostic services and specialists (if needed), develop treatment plans that address the needs of stranded animals on a case by case basis. For animals in grave condition, humane euthanasia can be provided to prevent the potential for long-term suffering. Rehabilitated animals are released back into natural habitats. When possible,we outfit animals with satellite tags and other devices that allow for post-release monitoring of movements and activities such as diving behavior.

The Stranding Response Team has been very successful in recent years with the rescue, rehabilitation and release of stranded seals and sea turtles. Below are some of our actual cases. If they were tagged with satellite transmitters, you can follow them online by clicking on the links.


Turtle Rescues and Releases

Ray of Sunshine

Ray of Sunshine

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling (Caretta caretta)
Rescued: 14 September 2013, Wallops Island
Admission size: 20.5 g / 0.04 lbs; 4.44 mm / 0.17 in carapace length (hatchling)

Each summer, loggerhead sea turtles come to Virginia to enjoy the bounty of food (primarily crabs and whelks) in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean waters.  Some adult females will even nest along ocean beaches. Once they emerge from these nests, sea turtle hatchlings face many challenges and some get washed back onto shore. Ray of Sunshine was one of these cases. Fortunately, this little hatchling was found by a family on the beach at Wallops Island and reported to our Stranding Response Team. Ray responded very well to supportive care at our Marine Animal Care Center. Ray was released into the Gulf Stream in November 2013.


Tahoe

Tahoe

Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
Rescued: 24 August 2013, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Admission size: 742 g / 1.6 lbs; 17.6 cm / 6.9 in carapace length

Tahoe stranded at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge entangled in a mass of fishing and crab pot line with a buoy attached. The line was wrapped tightly around Tahoe's left front flipper and right rear flipper. The damage to the front flipper was so severe that the decision was made to amputate the flipper. Tahoe is extremely active and hasn't stopped swimming since. If you come across an entangled sea turtle, do not attempt to disentangle the animal yourself! Keep eyes on the animal and call the Stranding Response Team immediately.


Findlay

Findlay

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Rescued: 30 July 2013, Little Island Fishing Pier, Virginia Beach
Admission size: 34 kgs / 74.8 lbs; 62.6 cm / 24.6 in carapace length

Findlay was hooked in the jaw by a fisher at Little Island Fishing Pier. The turtle arrived with signs of severe anemia and carapace (top shell) infections. Following antibiotics and treatment for these conditions, this turtle made a quick recovery and gained weight. Findlay was fitted with a NAVY satellite tag and released from Sandbridge Beach on 20 October 2013. You can follow Findlay's post-release movements on seaturtle.org/Findlay. If you happen to hook a turtle, use a net, lift the turtle by the shell, or lead the turtle to the beach and do not cut the line. Call the Stranding Response Team immediately for assistance.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Rescued: 5 January 2013, Cape Charles
Admission size: 36 kgs / 66.7 cm / 26.3 in carapace length

Cookie Dough was found lying in the mud on 5 January 2013.  At 80 pounds, this turtle was admitted to our Marine Animal Care Center with an internal body temperature of 40°F.  A healthy loggerhead sea turtle should have an internal temperature between 68°F to 78°F. Cookie Dough was suffering from cold-stunning, a sometimes fatal condition that occurs when cold-blooded turtles stay too long in cold waters. Treatment involved slowly warming the turtle's body temperature and antibiotics to fight off any secondary infection such as pneumonia. Cookie Dough recovered and was released with a satellite tag into warm waters off the coast of Virginia Beach on 5 June 2013. You can follow Cookie Dough's post-release movements on seaturtle.org/CCCookieDough.


Fireworks

Fireworks

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Rescued: 4 July 2011, Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve
Admission size: 57 kgs / 125.4 lbs; 75.1 cm / 29.6 in carapace length

Fireworks was rescued on July 4, 2011. The turtle suffered from blunt trauma to the head, likely from a vessel impact that caused a laceration to the head, left eyelid and left jaw. Fireworks responded very well to treatment and healed quite quickly. Unfortunately, scar tissue around the eyelid caused the eye to become permanently closed. However, his ability to catch live prey (quite aggressively) in a rehabilitation pool demonstrated to us that Fireworks could still survive in the wild. During his stay at our Marine Animal Care Center, staff noticed Fireworks' tail grew significantly, leading to the conclusion that Fireworks was a male – for only the male turtles have long tails when they reach maturity! He enjoyed meals of herring, squid, shrimp, scallops, crayfish, blue crab and horseshoe crab while in rehabilitation. On July 13, 2012, more than a year after his rescue, Fireworks was fitted with a satellite transmitter and released from the Aquarium's research vessel just offshore of Virginia Beach. Fireworks is still transmitting his location and you can view his post-release tracks on seaturtle.org/Fireworks.


Boise Boysenberry

Boise Boysenberry

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Rescued: 4 October 2011, Norfolk Navy Base
Admission size: 72.4 kgs / 159.3 lbs; 80.4cm / 31.7in carapace length

Thanks to the crew of the nuclear submarine USS Boise, this injured loggerhead was reported floating at Norfolk Naval Base with injuries consistent with a vessel impact. Boise had severe damage to the carapace (top shell) and a broken humerus in the left front flipper. She has come a long way since then, yet Boise continues to exhibit partial rear flipper paralysis and buoyancy problems. Due to the limitations that result from these conditions, Boise has been deemed non-releasable. The Stranding Response Team is working hard to prepare Boise for placement in a permanent aquarium home where she will become a wonderful ambassador for sea turtle conservation.


Kermit

Kermit

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Rescued: 20 September 2008, Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach
Admission size: 2.4 kgs / 5.3 lbs; 28.2cm / 11 in carapace length

Kermit was rescued by a member of the general public that found the turtle floating upside down in the surf at Sandbridge. Kermit arrived at our Marine Animal Care Center extremely thin and lethargic, and was not able to ingest food properly or gain weight. Diagnostic tests revealed that the turtle had an obstruction in the esophagus. The obstruction was due to a large amount of plastic and various other manmade debris (including balloons, bags and candy wrappers) that had been ingested by the turtle. Veterinarians at Beach Pet Hospital used specialized instruments to successfully remove the obstruction. Kermit made a full recovery and was released from Sandbridge Beach on 22 June 2009. Kermit is a true story of how improper disposal of trash can lead to marine debris and cause harm to sea turtles and other ocean life.


Seal Rescues and Releases

Eyegore the Maniac

Eyegore the Maniac

Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus)
Rescued: 15 April 2013, Ft. Story, Virginia Beach
Admission size: 22 kg / 48.4 lbs; 101.9 cm / 40.1 in straight length

Eyegore was admitted to our Marine Animal Care Center with a respiratory and eye infection. While in rehabilitation, Eyegore was swimming, eating, vocalizing and acting aggressively, which are all natural traits to be expected from a wild seal. In May 2013, he was transferred to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to complete his rehabilitation. Complications from the eye infection left Eyegore partially blind in his left eye, but he was otherwise healthy and successfully released on 5 July 2013 from Assateague Park in Berlin, Maryland. Please refer to our "observer guidelines" page to find out what you should do if you come across a seal on a shoreline or pier in Virginia.