MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - Two Kemp's Ridley sea turtles that were accidentally snagged by fishermen in the Mississippi Sound were returned to their natural habitat Wednesday morning.
The turtles seemed to sense the excitement of their impending release, as the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies team prepared to head a couple miles offshore.
"As soon as our vets said they were able to be released, we bring them back and put them into the sound," said Dr. Eric Pulis, marine conservation ecologist.
The animals will return to the wild with high tech transmitters that will provide valuable research information.
"They'll give us a location of where the turtle is day-to-day so we know what habitats it's using, where does it go, how much time does it spend in a particular location," said Dr. Pulis.
Both turtles spent about a month in rehab after being accidentally caught by local fishermen, which isn't uncommon. Juvenile turtles enjoy spending time in the shallow waters of the Mississippi Sound, and fishing bait could appear to be a tasty meal to them.
The juvenile turtles wasted little time taking off once they hit the water. Their return to the wild seemed to be a smooth transition.
"They swam off and that's the goal...to release them back into the wild," said Victoria Howard, IMMS research assistant.
Officials measured the water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen at the release site.
"It's just good to know the conditions we release them in, where we release them, what the water's like. Give us an idea if we release them in low salinity, cold temperatures," Howard explained.
Judging from the turtles' reactions, conditions were just right.
"It's great to see them return to the sound and we'll see what happens next," said Dr. Pulis.
Previous tracking studies show the Kemp's Ridley turtles can travel quite a distance. One turtle swam all the way to Mexico for the winter before returning to the Mississippi Sound.