Endangered sea turtle found shot with 3 foot spear off Key Largo

KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) - An endangered sea turtle is recovering after being shot with a spear.

According to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, a boater spotted the 150 pound green sea turtle Saturday on Craysfort Reef near Key Largo. The turtle had a spear sticking out of its neck and was entangled in trapline.

The turtle was taken to the hospital where doctors discovered the spear was deeper than initially thought and spanned half the reptile’s body.

“The good news is the turtle has been named Splinter by the rescuers, is alive today and in surprisingly good condition,” Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach said.

The veterinarians at the hospital caring for the reptile found signs that the incident was not an accident.

“The turtle has an injury on its plastron, or underneath, where it looks like somebody tried to spear the turtle,” Zirkelbach said, “but there’s bone there, so they must have tried to spear it from underneath, and then went for the neck when it didn’t work, so it does not look like an accident.”

Doctors at the hospital performed an emergency surgery to remove the spear, which measured 3 feet long.

“A lot of necrotic tissue has grown around it, and there was what we call ‘granuloma’ from the spear rubbing when the turtle moves its head,”  said.

Splinter is now in stable but guarded condition.

“It’s highly unlikely this was an accident, as the turtle has an injury on its plastron that looks like someone tried to spear her on her underside,” said hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach.

All species of sea turtles in and around the United States are listed as threatened or endangered. They are protected under the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act.

“It’s the second case in close proximity to where a green sea turtle has been speared,” Zirkelbach said. “The first was in June in Biscayne Bay in Miami. Unfortunately, that turtle was dead. It had a spear in its head.”

The person or persons responsible for spearing the turtle could face civil penalties or criminal charges resulting in fines and prison time.

“It’s important to put a stop to this, so we are trying to get as much information out there and educate people,” Zirkelbach said.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

If you have any information on this incident, call 305-743-2552. You can remain anonymous.

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.