JUNO BEACH, Fla. — A loggerhead sea turtle named Rocky paused briefly on the sand Wednesday morning before slowly crawling into the Atlantic Ocean after spending six weeks rehabbing at Florida’s Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
Turtle hospital staff and volunteers cheered as the turtle made its way down the beach, which is directly across the street from the center. Rocky was equipped with a blue tracking device on its back, which allows the staff to continue monitoring the large turtle.
Rocky, a 220-pound (100-kilograms) female turtle, was found floating off North Hutchinson Island on Dec. 29 with a tear in the lung caused by a boat strike, Andy Dehart, the center’s president and CEO, said Wednesday.
The turtle “had a perforation in the lung, so was trapping air in the body cavity, which was making it essentially be what’s called a floater,” Dehart said. “It couldn’t dive. It couldn’t get underwater.”
The center’s goal is to rehab the turtles and get them back into their natural habitat.
“So, every one of these animals that goes back is critical to the survival of the sea turtle populations, especially a large breeding female like Rocky,” he said. “Seeing that return to nature is truly something magical.”
Juno Beach is north of West Palm Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
Last year, the center monitored some 18,000 turtle nests along a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of beach. Most of the nests were comprised of leatherback turtles, which are the most endangered, along with loggerhead and green sea turtles. Nesting season runs from March 1 to the end of October.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.