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Injured leatherback turtle in care at Mote


A leatherback sea turtle that was rescued from an island in Lee County on Tuesday is in critical condition at Mote Marine Laboratory.


Injured turtle at Mote

An injured turtle arrives at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota on Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission brought the nearly 800-pound turtle to Mote after it stranded Tuesday. Since its arrival at Mote, veterinary staff members have taken blood samples, are providing supportive medical care and are monitoring her condition around the clock.


The turtle is an adult female that is nearly 5 feet long and weighs 787 pounds. She has a wound near where her left rear flipper attaches to her body and some abrasions on her right side and face. The animal does have a tag, so information about her previous nesting activity should be available later on.


The turtle has been placed in a harness in the medical pool to help allow it to swim comfortably and to keep her from abrading, or rubbing, her delicate skin on the sides of the pool. Leatherback turtles are a deep water species, and are not used to boundaries or walls, making it difficult to treat them in a confined setting. Rehabilitation is rarely attempted with this species.


Experts are always reluctant to bring this species of turtle in for treatment, Mote veterinarian Dr. Andy Stamper said. "Plan A was to get the animal back in the water, Plan B was to bring it into the hospital," he said. The turtle could be released within days.


Mote said it hopes to release the turtle as soon as possible, but it needs donations to help support its care.


"This turtle is larger than other animals -- even dolphins -- that we usually treat at Mote," Stamper said. "That means we have to use larger amounts of things like antibiotics to treat her and that costs are higher."


Stranded twice

According to Mote, the sea turtle first stranded in Collier County on Monday, then stranded again in Lee County on Tuesday. She was brought to Mote Marine Laboratory for rehabilitation late Tuesday afternoon.


This turtle was first spotted on the beach in Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park on Monday. State park staff and staff from the Collier County Parks and Recreation Department and Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission eventually were able to coax the turtle back into the water and it swam away.


But on Tuesday morning, the turtle was found ashore again on Big Hickory Island. Turtle Time Inc., Lovers Key State Park rangers, members of Lee County's Department of Natural Resources and staff from Pelican Landing rescued the stranded turtle by boat and brought it to the Carl Johnson boat ramp at Lovers Key State Park.


Rhonda Bailey, a biologist with FWC's Sea Turtle Program, and FWC law enforcement personnel also helped with the rescue. Bailey transported the turtle to Mote, where it arrived around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.


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