Speared sea turtle makes full recovery – Splinter will return to her ocean home on Friday

Speared sea turtle makes full recovery – Splinter will return to her ocean home on Friday - A turtle sitting on a table - Turtle
Veterinarian Dr. Doug Mader performed emergency surgery at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon to remove a spear from Splinter the green sea turtle, who has made a full recovery. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for shooting the protected turtle with a spear gun and leaving her tangled in line in waters off Key Largo. THE TURTLE HOSPITAL/Contributed

Splinter’s going home. The 150-pound green sea turtle that had been shot with a spear and become entangled in trap line made a full recovery at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. Splinter will be released to the ocean Friday at Higgs Beach in Key West.

A recreational boater rescued the turtle on Sept. 7 off Key Largo. The boater noticed the turtle in distress with a spear sticking out of its neck and tangled in line. She radioed for help and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers Jorge Larios and Michael Jansen responded and brought the turtle aboard their boat.

The FWC officers headed for shore at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where turtle rehabilitation specialist Olivia Carlile met them and stabilized the turtle before taking it to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

Veterinarian Dr. Doug Mader used an endoscope to evaluate the 3-foot-long spear’s location inside the turtle before performing emergency surgery to remove it.

Treatment at the Turtle Hospital included endoscopy, surgery to remove the spear, wound care with natural honey, broad spectrum antibiotics, vitamins and fluids, and a healthy diet of natural sea grass, green vegetables and seafood. 

Speared sea turtle makes full recovery – Splinter will return to her ocean home on Friday - Turtle
A composite image of several separate x-rays shows the 3-foot-long spear that impaled Splinter, a 150-pound green sea turtle that was rescued on Sept. 7 off Key Largo. THE TURTLE HOSPITAL/Contributed

“Splinter,” as the turtle came to be called, was the second sea turtle found impaled with a spear this summer. The first, which was discovered in June in Biscayne National Park with a spear in its head, did not survive. Detectives and authorities are working to find the people responsible for these horrific acts and are asking for the public’s help.

“It’s highly unlikely this was an accident,” said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach, “as the turtle has an injury on its plastron that looks like someone tried to spear her on her underside.”

All species of sea turtles in and around the United States are listed as threatened or endangered. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act. The person(s) responsible for these acts could face civil penalties or criminal charges resulting in large fines and prison time.

Richie Moretti, founder of the Turtle Hospital and current chairman of its board, has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who speared Splinter. A group of Key West businesses has added $20,000, bringing the total reward to $25,000. Call 305-743-2552 with information. Callers may remain anonymous.

The Turtle Hospital ambulance will arrive with Splinter at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at Higgs Beach, behind Salute Restaurant in Key West. She will be released to the ocean at 9:30 a.m.

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