Jupiter resident Jenny Gasparik said that the Coral Cove Inlet is a go-to spot. It was no different on Tuesday when she and about five others were enjoying the beach and encountered a distressed sea turtle in the water.
“It’s our local spot,” Gasparik said about the turtle rescue mission in a Facebook message. “We were all already there.”
Gasparik said she saw the injured Leatherback turtle “bobbing up and down” and knew it was in trouble because it couldn’t go under the water.
“All of us being native, locals had the knowledge needed to start the rescue efforts as the onlookers frantically called FWC, Loggerhead Marine [Center]…any other number to get this turtle some help,” Gasparik said.
In about an hour, she said, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrived. The group helped load the turtle into a rescue truck, but even with everyone’s best efforts it was too late.
The turtle was believed to be struck by a boat propeller over the weekend, but by the time a rescue team got to the scene, they couldn’t find the animal, said Hannah Deadman-Arnst, spokeswoman for the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
Rescuers discovered Tuesday that the turtle had five large boat propeller wounds to its back, which caused internal injuries and severed its spinal cord. It was taken to the FWC’s lab in Tequesta, where it was euthanized.
“We tried and we all did what we know was best for that ancient creature,” Gasparik said. “She came in the river in distress, and I know we got her calm and she wasn’t alone — definitely a heavy, heavy day.”
The turtle’s body is now at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, where Dr. Brian Stacy will perform a necropsy, Deadman-Arnst said.
“This is a sad case, but it is a good reminder to people to be careful when boating,” said Deadman-Arnst. “Keep your eyes open and watch out for sea turtles and other marine life.”
Usually there are more turtle boating injuries during nesting season, which runs from March 1 through Oct. 31 in Palm Beach County, because female turtles stay closer to the shore.
Gasparik said that she hopes that this turtle’s death will inspire new Jupiter residents to “educate themselves and their children about the marine life around us and how absolutely amazing it is.”
“We need to protect [the ocean and its marine life] so the generations to come will be able to see large healthy Leatherbacks in the wild,” she said. “We are the dominant species…. so it’s our duty to protect all of this colorful planet.”