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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 8 years ago

Leatherback turtle arrives at Mote for treatment

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

A leatherback sea turtle that became stranded in Collier County, and then, Lee County, earlier this week was brought to Mote Marine Laboratory around 4:30 p.m. yesterday for rehabilitation.

The nearly 5-foot-long, 787-pound adult female turtle, is in critical condition and will be monitored around-the-clock by Mote staff members and volunteers.

The turtle was first spotted on the beach in Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park Monday. State park staff, along with staff members from the Collier County Parks and Recreation department and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were able to coax the turtle back into the water. But yesterday morning, the turtle was found ashore on Big Hickory Island.

Turtle Time Inc. members, Lovers Key State Park rangers, and staff members from the Lee County Department of Natural Resources and Pelican Landing rescued the turtle and brought it to the Carl Johnson Boat Ramp at Lovers Key State Park. Rhonda Bailey, biologist with FWC transported the turtle to Mote.

According to Dr. Andy Samper, Mote veterinarian, officials are always reluctant to bring leatherback turtles in for treatment because the species does not fare well in combined settings.

“Plan A was to get the animal back in the water, Plan B was to bring it into the hospital,” Samper said in a prepared statement.

The turtle could be released within days.

At Mote, staff members took X-rays of the turtle, drew blood samples and gave her fluids. The turtle has a wound near the area where her left rear flipper attaches to her body and some abrasions on her right side and face. Because she has a tag, information about her previous nesting activity could be available later today.

Leatherback turtles are the largest living reptiles in the world and the most endangered of all sea-turtle species. Unlike loggerhead turtles, leatherback turtles don’t have shells. Their carapace is bony and covered with firm, rubbery skin. The species is commonly found in deep ocean waters and are rarely found along Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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