A large, adult male sea turtle who was hit by a boat, missing part of his flipper and unable to dive well was rescued Sunday, June 28, in Lyons Bay in Nokomis by members of the Venice Police Marine Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sarasota Police Department, and brought to Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital.

Venice Marine Patrol Officer Paul Joyce was on routine boat patrol in the area when a paddle boarder told him and his passenger, FWC Investigator Scott Kirsch, that a sick or injured loggerhead sea turtle was in shallow water in Lyons Bay. The officers successfully located the animal, who was later named Lyons because he was found in Lyons Bay.

After identifying that it was an injured loggerhead sea turtle, the officers contacted Sarasota County Marine Deputy Eric Alvarez, who was on the water in his patrol boat. It was determined that the sea turtle needed rehabilitation care from Mote, and Officer Joyce contacted Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program.

It is important that anyone who finds a sick or injured marine animal contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, or the designated wildlife responder in your area, immediately.  (Emergency contacts below.)

“When we located the loggerhead, myself, Investigator Kirch and the paddleboarder could tell it was tired and worn out,” Officer Joyce said. “It would come out to get air, go back down, and come back for air every three-to-five minutes. At that point we knew it was distressed and we contacted Mote Marine Laboratory immediately.”

After about 15 minutes, they were able to get Lyons into the Venice Police Marine Patrol boat, and to Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island, Sarasota.

“I strongly believe if we waited any longer, we would have been recovering the sea turtle, instead of rescuing it,” Officer Joyce said.

Rebeccah Hazelkorn, Staff Biologist with Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, and other Mote staff met Officer Joyce, Investigator Kirsch and Sarasota Police Department Sgt. Bruce King at the Ken Thompson Boat Ramp by Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, where Lyons is currently receiving care.

“We confirmed he has a partially missing front left flipper, damage to the rear of the carapace (upper shell), and radiographs were taken to examine the damage to the left rear flipper,” Hazelkorn said. “While the front left flipper seems to be an older wound, the damage to the carapace and left rear flipper are due to a boat propeller. He received antibiotics and was placed in a rehabilitation tank where he is currently under observation,”

Lyons also showed a lot of epibiota (living things growing on his shell and skin), which suggests he was having trouble for some time.

The turtle’s wounds are severe, but the dedicated hospital staff is doing everything they can to keep the turtle comfortable during this critical period.

“This was a team effort,” Officer Joyce said. “And it is days like this that really make my job worthwhile. My job is not only to protect human life, but to also help protect the wildlife in the water. It truly is a great reward.”

Keep the waters turtle friendly this summer

Boaters should stay aware of their surroundings, obey slow-speed zones and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life. Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.
While viewing any large marine animals, follow 10 viewing tips (designed for dolphins, but suitable for other large marine species too). Click here for a PDF.

Emergency Contacts

To report a stranded dolphin, whale, manatee or sea turtle in coastal Southwest Florida, please call Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program’s 24-hour hotline: 888-345-2335.

Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program provides 24-hour response to sick, injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles within the coastal waters of Southwest Florida, mainly in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale outside of Sarasota and Manatee counties, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-3922.