Animal Rescue Week: Cougar’s Story

Published June 13, 2016

In honor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Turtle Week, we remember the story of Cougar, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and the longest resident in our Animal Rescue program!

Founded in 1991, the Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program celebrates its 25th anniversary this month! Throughout its history, the program has rehabilitated over 150 animals.

rescue-hall-of-fame

A variety of animals have been treated including: seals, sea turtles, rough-toothed dolphins, a harbor porpoise, a pygmy sperm whale and a manatee.

The Animal Rescue program is part of the Northeast Stranding Network through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Our team works in tandem with other facilities to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.

One of the many animals rescued through the stranding network was Cougar, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Cougar holds the record for being the Animal Rescue program’s longest resident. He was transferred from the New England Aquarium in November of 2013 and was released last summer.

sea-turtle-cougar

In his nearly two years in rehab he was treated for pneumonia, infected shell fractures, and a joint infection in his left front flipper. Many of his infections were severe and required weekly cleanings, exams, and blood draws to monitor his iron level and blood cell counts.

In June of 2014, Cougar was even treated at a veterinary hospital in Columbia, Maryland for an arthroscopy procedure on his shoulder. This minimally invasive procedure helped treat Cougar’s shoulders to help with mobility and ensure proper healing.

cougar-shell-surgery

Back in Baltimore, by August of 2014 Cougar had gained over four pounds and his shoulder healed well. Despite this progress, the infection in his shell continued to plague him, and required antibiotics and medications.

Despite his many ailments, by April of 2015 Cougar’s last bandage was removed! The staff of the Animal Rescue then transitioned to planning his release. Over the next three months, Cougar was transferred to a rehab pool where he built up his swimming and diving strength, along with other natural behaviors.

cougar

In August of 2015, Cougar was cleared for release. Over the course of his treatment, his shell grew eight centimeters and he doubled his body weight!  The Animal Rescue team safely transported him to Florida where he was released off the coast after 21 months in rehab.

cougar-turtle-release

Stay tuned for more posts this week in honor of our Animal Rescue program’s 25th anniversary!

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