Sea turtle living her free life again
After being stricken by the red tide’s algal bloom toxin, an endangered sea turtle was released back into her home – the Gulf of Mexico – after two weeks of rehabilitation from the CROW group on Sanibel Island.
Concerned citizens noticed a strange acting sea turtle off the coast of Marco Island and decided to contact proper authorities. It was determined the female sea turtle had potentially become ill from the recent red tide surge which has inflicted the west coast of Florida and that’s when CROW became involved.
“We brought her in and she was a little depressed, and wasn’t very feisty,” said CROW official Brittany Stevens. “Sometimes these animals are so debilitated, they don’t move at all. We took a blood sample from her and sent it out to test for red tide levels. It came back with a moderate amount level of (algae) toxin.”
The red tide is created by a harmful algal bloom, with high enough concentrations discoloring water to a red or brown hue. The red tide produces toxic chemicals which affect marine animals, birds and even humans.
The brevetoxins produced by the red tide affect the central nervous systems of these animals and can ultimately lead to death if not treated.
“Some animals swim in circles and act very strangely,” Stevens said. “Birds can stumble around on the beach like they are drunk or people can come up to them, which isn’t a normal thing.”
With CROW taking the sea turtle in, they started their normal treatment of the red tide toxin, which has no antidote.
“We put her in a fresh water tub, so she could rehydrate,” Stevens said. “We gave her subcutaneous fluids (under skin) and basically waited for her to show signs of detoxification. Every patient is different and the level of toxins they have in them. There isn’t an antidote, so it’s just a time thing.”
Sometimes it takes up to a month for animals inflicted with the red tide toxin to get back to normal, but this sea turtle’s symptoms were caught early, so she was basically back up to speed within two weeks.
After coordinating with state officials of where to release her to give her the best route of avoiding the red tide, it was determined an outlet from the “Ding” Wildlife Refuge was satisfactory.
“Ding” and CROW have a strong working relationship, so the release went as smooth as it could go, as Wildlife Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik did the honors of showing the sea turtle the door back into her home.
Once the sea turtle hit the water, she was quickly gone into the blue and back home.
CROW has treated and released about 20 different animals affected by the red tide, each one a mark in the success category.
The sea turtle’s journey now will be probably heading south to warmer and cleaner waters ahead of her, thanks to some concerned wildlife enthusiasts, CROW and the Ding Wildlife Refuge.