Two sea turtles injured during this past nesting season were returned to the water Jan. 23 with helping hands from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox and volunteer Skip Coyne.
“Marsha,” a juvenile female Kemp’s ridley turtle and a young adult loggerhead male named “Stu” were released into the Gulf of Mexico at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
The Kemp’s ridley is considered an endangered species and its home range mostly spans across the Gulf of Mexico. Marsha was struck by a boat in Collier County and suffered a severe head injury.
She was brought to Mote Marine Laboratory Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital in Sarasota for rehabilitation. According to Fox, she has recovered well from her injuries.
The young adult loggerhead had a much longer journey to recovery. Stu was found cold stunned in New England waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Stu was flown to Mote for rehabilitation and also experienced a full recovery.
Fox said Mote is rehabilitating several more turtles, but a number were ready to be released back into open water.
“Whenever they need help transporting or releasing turtles, we are always happy to lend a hand,” said Fox.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chose Honeymoon Island for the release point. Fox said water temperatures in the Northeast are too cold to release Stu back into his home waters, “but sea turtles travel for thousands of miles and Stu will find his way home.”
Fox said the release of rehabilitated turtles must be in waters with temperatures above 65 degrees. FWC determined water temperatures were ideal at Honeymoon Island State Park.
“Also, we couldn’t release Marsha back into the Gulf in Collier County because of the red tide situation there,” said Fox. “So Honeymoon Island was chosen for both water temperature and to keep them as far away from the red tide areas as possible.”
The turtles were tagged with tracking devices to monitor their travels. Both turtles made their way into the Gulf and began their second chance on life.