PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A sea turtle is back in the Gulf of Mexico after spending about two months at Gulf World Marine Institute.
The sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle named Kite was rescued from Russell Fields City Pier in early May.
Gulf World officials said Kite wasn’t like their usual rescues.
“He was swimming around with a circle net on him,” Gulf World Marine Institute Stranding Coordinator Lauren Albrittain said. “Thankfully the members of the public and the pier staff and the lifeguards were all able to work together to grab the net, get the turtle and we were able to bring him in and give him a medical assessment.”
The heavy barnacles covering the top of Kite’s shell indicated he may have been swimming slowly.
Gulf World officials also said he had irregular bloodwork. They had to give him antibiotics to regulate his blood levels.
After about two months of rehab, Kite was released into the Gulf of Mexico in Panama City Beach.
“We waited in our spot for like an hour and it [the sea turtle] was gone in like two seconds but it’s worth it,” Heather Martin, a Bonifay Resident who went to watch the release, said.
Martin also brought her marine-life-loving kids with her to witness their first-ever sea turtle release.
“It was pretty cool,” Martin’s son, Baylor Bradley said. “We went to Sea World like a year or two ago and it was kind of like that.”
The Bradley brothers are only three of an estimated 450 people that went to watch Kite’s release.
It could have been the largest crowd the loggerhead will ever see.
“We try to keep them wild, as we say,” Albrittain said. “It just means we reduce our interactions as much as possible to help reduce stress and plus that way when we send them back to the gulf they are not inclined to go back to the pier and get free food.”
It’s safe to say we might not be seeing Kite again anytime soon.
“At the end, the sea turtle just kind of poked his head up like he was saying bye,” Baylor Bradley said.
Kite might be gone, but the Bradley brothers said they’ll be back soon to see another rehabilitated sea turtle make its way back to the wild.
If you hook a sea turtle or find one in distress in Florida, Gulf World asks you call *FWC or #FWC to reach the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
You can also notify pier officials.