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CROW treats sea turtle affected by red tide found near Marco Island

A loggerhead sea turtle found floating off the coast of Marco Island and covered in barnacles was suffering the effects of red tide.

The turtle, found by boaters, was taken to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel.

“Seems like it was floating for a significant amount of time just due to the amount of the epibiota growth or the algae, barnacles that (grow) on the shell,” said Breanna Frankel, rehab manager at CROW.

The animal was alarmingly underweight and suffering from involuntary head twitching.

Frankel says these are all signs of red tide. “It’s a neurotoxin; it affects their ability to figure out what they’re supposed to do. So sometimes that means they’re surfacing, they can’t surface as well, and then just a lot of gas which is then built up in the G.I. tract which leads to buoyancy issues.”

For the last six days, CROW has been working on getting this patient back on track. This means slowly getting her in freshwater to get all of the growth off, getting her used to water again, and conducting a medical test.

“It was near impossible to see anything on X-rays because those barnacles were so thick,” Frankel said. “So to get successful X-rays, we had to remove a lot of that barnacle growth.”

So far, Frankels says, they’ve had about three sea turtles they’ve had to treat as red tide patients. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical, she says.

As for this one, she’s glad it’s on a successful road to recovery. “There are so many people with the conservation mindset that just really want to do the best thing for these animals. So to work in an environment like that is truly incredible.”

CROW says if you see a sea turtle in distress, do your best to get it somewhere safe and don’t let it go until experts have arrived to safely recover the animal.

The last thing they want is an animal in those conditions to go off into the wild.

Reporter:Andrea Guerrero
Writer:Drew Hill
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