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Gulfarium releases three rehabilitated sea turtles

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Gannett Florida contributing writer
Walton Sun

FORT WALTON BEACH — The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released three rehabilitated sea turtles early Friday morning, July 17, at Grayton Beach State Park off of East County Highway 30A.

It's been a busy sea turtle season for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. team, who has been working hard to rehabilitate many sick and injured sea turtles in their newly expanded C.A.R.E. Center, which is now viewable by visitors to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The immediate release of three turtles was a joyous and rewarding event for all.

The first turtle to be released was Peep, a juvenile green sea turtle, that was foul-hooked in the front right shoulder by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier June 4. The hook was removed upon arrival to the C.A.R.E. Center but radiographs showed an ingested hook in her esophagus. Surgery to remove the ingested hook was performed on June 8 and, following a smooth and successful recovery, Peep was cleared for release back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Uncle Sam, a juvenile green sea turtle weighing 47 pounds, was next to be released. This sea turtle was foul-hooked in the front left flipper by a fisherman at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier and arrived at the C.A.R.E. Center on May 29. Radiographs revealed that a fishing hook had been ingested and that surgery would be required for removal. Following a successful surgery on June 4, the C.A.R.E. team closely monitored his suture site to ensure healing before he was ready for release. This was Uncle Sam's second visit to the C.A.R.E. Center, previously arriving on July 4, 2018.

The final sea turtle to be released was Oreo, a 115-pound sub-adult loggerhead. Oreo was hooked in her tongue by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on July 14. With the use of light sedation, the C.A.R.E. team was able to remove the hook without surgery. An excellent body condition and unremarkable radiographs showing no internal foreign objects, meant that Oreo was quickly ready to head back into the Gulf.

"This wasn't Oreo's first visit to the C.A.R.E. Center," explained Terra Throgmorton, Gulfarium's Medical & Stranding coordinator. "She had previously stranded on May 3, 2019, and was released on June 24, 2019. Since her initial visit with us, this turtle has grown 7 cm and gained 31 pounds in weight!"

If you see a sea turtle in distress, injured, or deceased, please report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).