Loggerhead returns to sea after illness

A crowd of more than two dozen people gathered on the shore of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach June 3 to watch what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some.

Tyler, a sub-adult, 120-pound loggerhead sea turtle was released into the Gulf of Mexico after about 45 days of recovering at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

“This is the golden egg of sea-turtle work,” said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.

“We rarely get to see the adult sea turtles, so to see a sick one return to the water healthy is a wonderful thing, and to share it with the public is special,” said Fox. “I see real estate professionals, doctors, a retired veterinarian technician and a lot of teachers mixed in this crowd. For many of them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Mote interns and staff carried Tyler to the water’s edge and the release went quickly as the healthy loggerhead scampered into the open water with a second chance at life.

Within seconds, the turtle disappeared.

Tyler’s sex is unknown, according to Mote medical coordinator Lynn Byrd, who said the turtle was still too young to know for sure.

What Byrd did know for sure is that Tyler was close to death when the turtle was found on the shore of Anna Maria, close to Seagrape Lane.

Good Samaritans found Tyler on the beach March 16, lethargic and unable to move.

Tyler arrived at Mote with a red blood count of six.

“It’s supposed to be around 30,” said Byrd. “So the turtle was close to dying.”

Byrd said the condition is called lethargic loggerhead syndrome.

“It’s a parasite that gets into the bloodstream,” said Byrd. “We don’t know how, but as long as we get the turtle soon enough, the recovery rate is excellent.”

Byrd said a supplemental diet combined with antibiotics, and of course some tender loving care, typically gets the turtle back into a healthy state.

“What happens is that once infected, the turtle is unable to move,” she said. “They float ashore or float to the surface and are picked off by predators.”

That would not be Tyler’s fate and as the loggerhead quickly ducked under the waves, Byrd said, “This is the best. Any day we can return a healthy sea turtle back into the water is a good day.”

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