Mrs. Turt Lee has a new lease on life.
The 230-pound loggerhead turtle had suffered severe injuries from a boat strike when she was found June 15.
However, she is now in stable condition thanks to the rescue efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Cortez and the rehabilitation efforts of Mote Marine’s 24-hour marine rescue program.
Members of the Coast Guard rescued the sea turtle after they received a call that it was having trouble diving June 15.
The sea turtle, located a mile offshore of Longboat Pass, had a “spear-like” piece of debris protruding from her shell, according to Chief Boatswain’s Mate Ekahi Lee, of Station Cortez.
“Someone called it in and said her shell had been penetrated by a spear and she couldn’t go under,” Lee said. “The puncture had caused an air bubble and that’s why she couldn’t dive.”
Lee said when the rescuers got a closer look, they saw the “spear” was actually a sharp piece of wreckage that had likely come from impact with a vessel.
Members of the crew lifted the turtle on the boat by cradling her atop a large tire, according to Haley Rutger, public relations coordinator at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.
“She was heavy, but we were able to get her in the boat and put her on a stretcher,” Lee said.
Members of the Coast Guard named the turtle “Mrs. Turt Lee” after Lee.
Chief Petty Officer Daniel Benoit said Station Cortez often rescues marine wildlife as part of its Living Marine Resource protection program
“Even though it is not one of our missions that gains the most praise, it is one of our most important, and it is one that we place an incredible sense of pride and professionalism into,” he said. “Being able to preserve our marine wildlife for our children and offer protection to those species that need it is one of the many highlights of our job.”
The crew delivered Mrs. Turt Lee to the boat ramp at Ken Thompson Park on City Island, nearby to Mote.
Members of the Stranding Investigations Program — a 24-hour response service for marine mammals and sea turtles in Sarasota and Manatee counties met the Coast Guard at the ramp and quickly loaded the turtle in the back of a pickup truck.
With Coast Guard officials assisting, the turtle was transported to the Mote Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital.
“The Coast Guard did an exemplary job out in the water rescuing this turtle,” said Rebeccah Hazelkorn, staff biologist with Mote. “They made sure the turtle and their personnel were safe the entire time.”
According to Rutger, Mrs. Turt Lee was in stable condition June 18, but she has fresh boat-strike wounds across her upper shell, lacerations to both front flippers, damage to her tail and right rear flipper and the mark of an old shark bite.
The sharp object in her shell had fallen out before she arrived at Mote.
Mote staff is providing Mrs. Turt Lee with antibiotics, fluid therapy and other care.
“This turtle’s story serves as a reminder to watch out for marine animals while boating and to report animals in distress,” Rutger said.
She said Mote has treated more than 450 sea turtle patients since 1995.
Anyone who sees a turtle in distress can call Mote at 941-388-4441, or report injured or distressed wildlife to FWC’s 24-hour wildlife alert number, 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).