MARATHON (CBS4) – There’s a more than $10,000 reward being offered in the case of an endangered loggerhead sea turtle recovering from a high-powered spear gun wound to the head.
The turtle, named Sara, was discovered on August 3rd, with a four-foot steel spear protruding from its face off Big Pine Key.
Two Good Samaritans, Charlie and Nicholas Borg who were vacationing from Michigan, discovered the distressed turtle. After several missed attempts, they managed to capture the turtle and called the Coast Guard who in turn called the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
Once there, Dr. Doug Mader of the Turtle Hospital removed the spear. He said the turtle is lucky to be alive. The spear just missed the eyes, arteries, and brain.
The manager of the facility, Jo Ellen Basile explained, “I’ve seen turtles with gunshot wounds and gaff wounds. I’ve seen them wash up with no heads, no flippers, but I have never seen one with a spear.”
Sara is a 125-pound loggerhead, between 15 – 18 years old. Mader said the wound appeared fairly fresh and the turtle probably would not have survived much longer.
Turtle Hospital founder Richie Moretti quickly pledged a $500 reward for information and others soon added to the reward, including local dive shops, charter fishermen, commercial fishing associations, restaurants and private individuals. He says the spear used is not common in the Keys.
“They don’t use that in the Keys. That’s something you would go hunt Moby Dick with, it’s a lot more gun than anyone would use,” Moretti explained.
The reward now stands at $10,850 for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction of whoever shot the turtle with the spear gun. The reward also includes three free scuba dives, three free fishing trips and eight hours of free welding and fabrication.
While Sara is refusing to eat she is expected to be back on her way soon.
“Sara is great. She’s going to heal real quick. The more she swims the more she uses those flippers the faster she is going to heal,” Moretti said.
If you have information, please call the anonymous tip line at 1-888-404-FWCC. Anyone with information also can call the Turtle Hospital at (305) 743-2552.
Under state law, it’s a third degree felony to mutilate a protected species. Sara is already swimming vigorously in her hospital tank and should be well enough to be released back into the wild within a month or so.
In 25 years of operation, the Turtle Hospital has rescued, rehabbed and released more than 1,200 of the threatened and endangered marine creatures back into the ocean.