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MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – A rare, critically endangered leatherback sea turtle, found Sunday afternoon entangled in lobster trap lines off Marathon, is again safely swimming in the ocean waters off the Florida Keys.

Recreational boaters alerted the Keys-based Turtle Hospital after sighting the giant sea turtle in distress about two miles offshore.

The turtle’s neck and front right flipper appeared freshly entangled, according to Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital, who was among the animal care specialists who helped cut the lines.

Specialists from the Turtle Hospital and members of the U.S. Coast Guard were able to free the reptile, estimated to weigh more than 500 pounds, without harm.

Leatherback sea turtles are typically pelagic and spend the majority of their lives in the middle of the deep open ocean traveling great distances, usually beyond the continental shelf. Sightings close to shore are very rare.

The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.


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