SANIBEL, Fla. -- An adult male loggerhead sea turtle was released at the West Wind Inn on Sanibel Thursday.
This was after the turtle was found at the shore last month in distress and brought to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) for treatment.
While at the clinic, the turtle was treated for brevetoxicosis, also known as red tide poisoning. This is the sixth sea turtle to be treated and released from the clinic for brevetoxicosis since the start of the year.
We asked researches why they are releasing the sea turtle back into the waters that caused it harm.
“We checked for Karenia brevis, or algal counts, before we release the animals. And right now, the counts are very low. And the job that he has, which is to go out and impregnate females so that they can lay viable eggs this year, is a very important job. So yes, is there potentially some risk that he may be re-infected? There is. But he’s a very strong, healthy sea turtle. All of his bloodwork is now within normal limits,” said Dr. Heather Barron, a veterinarian at CROW.
We wanted to get more information to insure the safety of this sea turtle being released back into the waters that made it sick. So we reached out to Florida Gulf Coast University marine scientist Dr. Mike Parsons, who says that his biggest concern is that because of the red tide, organisms living in the water may be affected.
If the turtle eats those animals it could get sick. "When they release this turtle, it won't be starving and then wanna eat right away in a red tide. I think that would be the bigger issue. So if they release it, and it's not eating anything in that red tide area, and then it swims out into an area that doesn't have the lingering effects of red tide."
Prior to release, the turtle was tagged with flipper tags, a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag, and fitted with a satellite tag to be tracked so they know how he's doing.
The turtle was named “Walter” in honor of CROW’s 50th Anniversary and its Founder, Shirley J. Walter.
Walter's movements can be followed here: https://conserveturtles.org/trackingmap/?id=195.