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Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle release a rarity for CROW

By Staff | Apr 27, 2016

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was found swimming in circles in Cape Coral Harbor April 5. KENNY HOWELL

It was a quick turnaround from red tide poisoning for a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which was released Friday morning back into the wild at “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.

The Kemp’s Ridley was found swimming in circles at Cape Harbour April 5, and was delivered to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation for Wildlife that evening. The sea turtle underwent therapy for red tide poisoning after a positive test came back.

“She had a pretty quick turnaround,” said CROW wildlife rehabilitator Rachel Walsh. “In most cases with red tide and sea turtles, it takes up to 90 days for a full recovery, but with this one, it took only under 20 days.”

The Kemp’s Ridley, which was estimated to be in its mid-20s to early-30s and weighed a healthy 71 pounds, was in tip-top physical shape, with a “pristine” shell and no other injuries present.

She was also thought of to be a female by the CROW staff, because she had a shorter tail, which is a common trait of Kemp’s Ridley females.

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is carried by CROW wildlife rehabilitator Rachel Walsh (left) and Allison Daughery, DVM Intern, along with Ding Darling manager Paul Tritaik, to its release point in the refuge Friday morning. KENNY HOWELL

“She was in good shape physically, but not neurologically, which is a sign of red tide toxin,” Walsh said. “She didn’t eat right away when she was brought in because she was focused on getting away. She was also extremely depressed right away, and she displayed symptoms of red tide and was extremely dehydrated.”

The sea turtle underwent fresh water fluid treatments, which is a normal treatment for red tide. She was kept out of the pool the first two nights, so she wouldn’t drown when left unattended.

“We put fresh water in her tank, just to get everything out of her system,” Walsh said. “Then we gradually added saltwater, until it eventually reached ocean water proportions.”

The sea turtle was fed crab during her recovery, which went according to plan.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are a rarity in the area, with CROW treating just three in the last year, including one coming in dead on arrival after a boat strike. The females mostly nest on the Texas coastline, but do hang out near the shoreline off of Florida.

CROW staff (left to right): Steve Royka, Volunteer; Yvette Carrasco, Wildlife Rehabilitator; Breanna Frankel, Wildlife Rehabilitator; Rachel Walsh, Wildlife Rehabilitator and Allison Daughery, DVM Intern. KENNY HOWELL

Red tide also has been a persistent problem since January. Usually, the red tide season is from November through January, but with the recent nutrient-laden water being discharged from Lake Okeechobee, that potentially could be the result of the consistent red tide patients being brought into CROW since January.

“We’ve been having red tide (patients) coming in since January, with a break in February,” Walsh said. “We’ve been having cormorants being brought in everyday now with red tide, along with pelicans.”

Usually the CROW patient is released where it was found, but after contacting the state, it was decided “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge was a better release point because of less signs of red tide.

The sea turtle was also tagged on both flippers and a microchip tag in its back neck muscle, which will allow CROW to be contacted and share its information if the sea turtle is found sick or injured again.

To learn more about CROW or to donate or volunteer, go to their website at crowclinic.org/.

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge manager Paul Tritaik, releases the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, as it made a fast exit into the bay. KENNY HOWELL