A 500 pound turtle was rescued from Pensacola Beach yesterday, thanks to a few good samaritans, local, state and federal officials. .
At around 9 a.m. Friday morning, a bystander noticed a 6 foot long turtle appearing to struggle in shallow waters along Pensacola Beach and notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. FWC alerted Gulf Islands National Seashore biologist Mark Nicholas and after performing an in-water assessment and assisting the turtle to shore, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach was contacted by the state to perform a rescue operation.
Several bystanders assisted with buckets of water and towels to keep the turtle cool while Gulfarium staff provided IV fluids and care for the turtle. In order to assist the Gulfarium CARE staff in moving the massive turtle off the beach, the Santa Rosa Island Authority provided a front-end loader to get the turtle to an enclosed box truck for transport to the Gulfarium for further evaluation.
The leatherback is 6 1/2 feet long, 4 feet wide, weighs about 500 pounds and has a 7- to 8-foot wing span, according to Krista Stouffer, Gulfarium’s marketing and communications coordinator.
The leatherback is currently in stable condition and under 24-hour observation and treatment at the Gulfarium. Officials say it is clear from scarring on its shell that this turtle has been hit by boat propellers in the past.
The turtle will remain at the Gulfarium where her condition will be more thoroughly assessed and monitored, in hopes of her eventual release back into the wild.
Officials say that if you come into contact with a stranded or distressed turtle, it is best to notify the authorities by calling FWC at 888-404-FWCC.
UPDATE: Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park officials say they are hopeful for the turtle’s release within the next few days based on progress of the animal’s recovery: