The story of Lucky, a subadult loggerhead sea turtle that had been at The Turtle Hospital for two years and deemed unreleasable, is a lesson in not stereotyping and giving every opportunity to those considered handicapped. Lucky was hit by a boat and suffered propeller wounds to his shell and skull in August 2009. Although his wounds healed, leaving permanent scars as seen in the picture below, everyone said Lucky was brain damaged from the head wound.
Some very hopeful new staff members gave Lucky another chance recently, and proved that Lucky could catch and eat his food as well as swim fast to escape predators. He spent some time by himself in one of our large 30,000 tanks where we observed him catching and eating live lobster, then he was transferred to a section of our main pool where he had to compete with fish to find and eat his food each day without human assistance.
Lucky was evaluated by Hospital staff and veterinarians and by Florida Fish and Wildlife staff. Lucky passed all the tests and was released on October 6 in the Contents area of Florida Bay, about 20 miles offshore of Big Pine Key. We know Lucky is having the time of his life out there where there is very little boat traffic. We were assisted in his release by National Key Deer Refuge staff Tom Wilmer and Kate Perry, pictured below with Richie Moretti.
It is bittersweet here because Lucky was a big part of our turtle family. He had the unusual and comical habit of coming chest up out of the water to grab his food. One bad habit he had was biting at the other turtles. He and adoptee Rebel were the only loggerhead permanent residents. Although we try not to attribute human emotion to sea turtles because they are reptiles and not social creatures, since Lucky’s departure, Rebel is more active and actually appears to be looking for his lost buddy. Rebel usually is better described as a slug, coming up slowly out of the deep to collect his food in his wide open mouth, but now he is trying to climb up the side of the fence and look into the section of the pool where we last had Lucky. Of course we still have 10 other permanent residents that Rebel can hang out with.
Goodbye Lucky. I’m proud to have played a part in your success.