Green Sea Turtle Rescue – Sometimes the best things come after the photo shoot
Living in Jupiter, Florida and being at the beach so much, it’s not uncommon to see a Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead or even a Leatherback. Especially in the early summer months, when they come ashore at night to lay their eggs, typically heading back to the ocean before the sun comes up. Photographing beach sunrises, I regularly see the tracks from the night before. On some occasions, I’ll even spot a turtle on the beach.
Thursday morning was like any other morning. I set the alarm to get out and shoot some HDR or high dynamic range photography of the sunrise. Jupiter Beach is only a few minutes from my home, so I got there just before the sun rose. I actually shot from the Jupiter Inlet on this particular morning. There were a few fishermen and spectators waiting for the sunrise. Although some storms were present in the distance, well over the ocean, I was able to still capture the colorful sunrise in HDR.
I packed up my tripod and camera, making my way back to my vehicle. I left Jupiter Inlet, passing through the winding road along side the public parking lot of Jupiter Beach. Still early in the morning so nobody was at the beach for the day… yet. I noticed a couple walking along the sidewalk, being stopped by another morning walker. She pointed into the parking lot towards a lone FWC (Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation) truck. This is the law enforcement agency who overseas Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. I noticed a lone wildlife Officer near the concrete barriers that prevent the beach sand dunes from spreading out into the public parking lot. Curious, I pulled into the parking lot and drove up.
On top of the concrete barrier was a large female Green Sea Turtle. She was dangerously close to falling the four feet down to the concrete parking lot as she tried to make her way back to the ocean. But, that would be a long way for her to go and surely a dangerous route. As I got out, two Jupiter Police Officers arrived and together we worked to keep this lady from falling and eventually getting back to the beach and ocean.
But, I need to back up. Probably to several hours ago, because this is when this Green Sea Turtle came ashore. Because many will ask, “how the heck did that turtle get there.” If your from the Jupiter area or have been to Jupiter Beach, you know this beach is separated by a sand dune with several wood fences and a steep slope down to the parking lot. Where the concrete barricades keep the sand from sliding all over the parking lot. It was speculated, that this lady had came ashore somewhere to the south of where she was found. Made her way up the beach and laid her eggs. For whatever reason, she didn’t turn back to the ocean. Instead, she most likely went right up the beach and made her way into a thicket of Sea Grape plants or even to the wood walkway leading to the parking lot. Once this Green Sea Turtle got near the parking lot, she turned and headed north along the thin stretch of sand that was held up by the concrete barricades. Misjudging her trek back, would certainly lead to serious injuries had she fallen off into the concrete parking lot.
Exhausted, this Green Sea Turtle needed the support of rescuers to guide her another 300 feet to the nearest entry back to the beach. A Jupiter Police Officer helps support her weight from her trying to come off the sand.
Morning walkers through the park started to stop by and watch the rescue unfold. Asking for assistance from the Officers, I placed my hand on her to try and guide her to keep on the sand. Fortunately, one of the bystanders took my camera for me briefly and snapped this picture.
The FWC and Jupiter Police Officer were able to get back to assisting her as Loggerhead Marinelife Center workers began to arrive. This is a great center, just two miles south in Juno Beach. A state of the art facility, which includes a veterinary hospital, exhibit hall, classrooms, research labs and resource center. Workers document all the nests throughout Juno Beach, Jupiter and Tequesta. It is the only sea turtle hospital between Orlando and the Florida Keys!
As this Green Sea Turtle made her way close to the public entrance to the beach. And after many exhaustive rests in between, she was able to be safely lifted down to the sand by several of us. The Loggerhead Marinelife Center workers checked her visually for injuries, finding only minor scratches on her fin from the concrete barrier, decided she would be able to make it back to the ocean on her own. Well stepped back and watched as she navigated her way.
Passing a sign educating the public about sea turtles and their nesting habits.
This “wall” had to be formed by workers to help guide her around the fence to the ocean.
I’ve seen it done for pets and even small kids, but never on a turtle. A Jupiter Police Officer encourages her to get around the fence for the final stretch down the beach and to the water. She certainly wasn’t in it for the race. She was exhausted, stopping several times and resting her head on the sand. She would find the strength to go another 100 or so feet down to the water.
Definitely was certainly worth stopping after shooting my HDR sunrise at Jupiter Inlet. This Green Sea Turtle had a long journey, but she was back home and swam away peacefully.
More pictures from this rescue on my Facebook page.