Sea turtle found with spear in its neck

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The turtle dubbed “Splinter” is in stable, but guarded condition at the Turtle Hospital. (Bette Zirkelbach, The Turtle Hospital)

MARATHON, Fla. (WPEC) - A 150-pound green sea turtle is recovering after having a spear lodged in its neck.

The Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon took in the turtle after it was found tangled in a trapline on Carysfort Reef off of Key Largo on Saturday, according to Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach. This makes the second sea turtle found impaled with a spear this summer, Zirkelbach said. The first was a dead sea turtle recovered in Biscayne National Park with a spear in its head this past June.

Now, Zirkelbach says, authorities are investigating to find out who is responsible and the Turtle Hospital's chairman of the board, Richie Moretti, is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who has information that would lead to an arrest. Anyone who has any information about the incident may remain anonymous and is asked to call (305) 743-2552.

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

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded to the call from a boater who spotted the turtle and a rehabilitation specialist with the turtle hospital met officers at the dock in John Pennekamp Park where the reptile was stabilized and taken to the hospital, Zirkelbach said. X-rays showed the spear went deeper than just its neck; it spanned more than half of the turtle's body.

Veterinarian Dr. Doug Mader performed emergency surgery to remove the three-foot-long spear, according to Zirkelbach. Today, the turtle dubbed “Splinter” is in stable, but guarded condition at the Turtle Hospital. The spear was saved as evidence while the FWC investigates.

Zirkelbach believes this was not an accident because of another injury on the turtle's body that she says looks like someone tried to stab it on its underside.

Dr. Mader thanked the team at the turtle hospital and said now it is only a matter of healing before the turtle can be released.