FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center in Okaloosa County released three rehabilitated sea turtles Wednesday morning.
“Each of these turtles holds a special place in our hearts and it’s such a joy to watch them return to the Gulf,” said Tabitha Siegfried, Stranding Coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. “The first release of the new year was an incredible success! We are so grateful for the overwhelming support of our community.”
Staff said each turtle has its own story of how it came to the C.A.R.E. Center.
Grace, an adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, weighs 70 lbs. Grace was found entangled in a buoy line on July 23, 2022. Siegfried paired up with Fort Walton Beach Parasailing to rescue Grace right offshore in front of the Four Points Resort on Okaloosa Island. Grace had been reportedly stuck to the buoy line for over 24 hours. After freeing Grace from the buoy line, she was brought in for evaluation. Grace had a severe entanglement wound on her right front flipper as well as a broken lower right jaw.
Bermuda, a sub-adult green sea turtle, weighs in at 66 lbs. Bermuda was foul-hooked in June of 2022 at the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. After undergoing surgery to remove multiple fishing hooks and seven months of recovery at the CARE Center, she was finally ready for release.
Squash, a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle, weighs in at 75 lbs. Squash was foul-hooked on Nov. 8, 2022, at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. During the initial intake procedure, Squash’s blood work showed mild anemia and radiographs showed a large circle hook in the stomach. After attempting non-surgical hook removal techniques and performing an endoscopic exam, it showed that the hook was embedded in the intestines. Squash is able to function normally and eat just fine despite the embedded hook. The decision was made by the veterinary team to leave the hook, as attempting to take it out could have resulted in irreparable damage.
The C.A.R.E. Center released the turtles in front of spectators at Topsail Hill Park. The staff made an educational video to discuss the turtles’ treatment as they made their crawl back into the water.
If you see a turtle in distress or accidentally hook a turtle report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).