Searena, the loggerhead turtle who has been greeting MacArthur Beach State Park visitors for two years, calmly sat in a plastic tub Wednesday morning, oblivious of freedom just moments away.
She wildly flapped her flippers, however, when she took her first dip into the park’s estuary in the hands of Park Specialist Art Carton. About two dozen students from St. Clare Catholic School wished her good luck from the boardwalk as he let her go.
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The 2 1/2-year-old turtle was just a few months old when she came to the park in late 2014 from a Florida Atlantic University study of how temperature and humidity affect turtle nests. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allows MacArthur Beach State Park to have up to three turtles to educate the public.
Kai, another female turtle from the park’s nature center, will replace Searena in the tank in front of the gift shop.
Searena weighs roughly 28 pounds and is about 18 inches long — big enough to resist predators. She’s outfitted with a tag but will not be tracked. Volunteers at every turtle walk during nesting season check for tags, Carton said.
“Maybe in about 17 years, we’ll find Searena on the beach,” he said.