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Splinter The Speared Turtle Set To Return To The Sea

In early September, a boater spotted a sea turtle tangled up in trap line off the Upper Keys. That's not that unusual.

But something else was — this green sea turtle had been speared.

"Miraculously, it did not affect any internal organs with a 3-foot spear through half her body," said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospitalin Marathon.

After surgery and almost two months of recovery at the Turtle Hospital, the turtle — dubbed Splinter — is ready to return to the ocean. 

"This is a big one for a lot of reasons," Zirkelbach said. "It's gut-wrenching, but the good news is she recovered really fast."

Marathon veterinarian Doug Mader said he fashioned a sheath to protect the tip of the spear from opening and withdrew it from the turtle, which didn't even bleed.

Splinter is a "sub-adult" sea turtle, probably in her late teens or early 20s, Zirkelbach said. Green sea turtles reach adulthood in their mid 20s.

This is the second sea turtle found speared off South Florida this year. The first was found dead in Biscayne National Park in June.

Zirkelbach said she is "99.9 percent" certain that the spearing was intentional — especially since there was another spear mark on the turtle's underside, called the plastron.

"They tried to spear the turtle there," she said, "but there's a bone plate so it didn't go through."

The Turtle Hospital is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information can call 305-743-2552.

Splinter is scheduled to arrive at Higgs Beach on Atlantic Blvd. in Key West, near Salute restaurant, at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1. The release is set for 9:30 a.m.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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