A nature videographer piloting a drone spotted an endangered sea turtle struggling in the red tide. He quickly alerted wildlife officials who showed up to save him.

The loggerhead turtle struggle was captured by nature videographer Michael McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe Company.See Through the Canoe

  • A cameraman in Florida spotted a loggerhead turtle close to the ocean’s surface last month.

  • After he quickly alerted authorities, the tortoise was rescued and is still recovering in a rehabilitation facility.

  • The rehabilitation clinic confirmed that the turtle had been exposed to red tide, a toxic algal bloom.

A nature videographer in Florida was filming the coast last month with his drone, as he usually does, when he spotted something unusual in the water – a loggerhead sea turtle close to the surface.

“It was very easy to spot because it was floating on the surface and it didn’t dive,” Michael McCarthy, owner of See Through Canoe Company, told Insider. “Usually when you see a turtle in the ocean, they’ll only be at the surface for 20 seconds to a minute, only to catch their breath and come back down.”

But this turtle, on a beach near St. Petersburg, was on the surface. As he zoomed in with his drone, it was obvious to McCarthy that the turtle needed help, and he needed it fast.

He took about a minute to document the turtle’s behavior, knowing it would be important, before rushing home to send the video and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC.

“When you call the FWC or other agencies, they don’t know if you have any experience with turtles or marine life, or if you have any idea what you’re really seeing,” McCarthy explained. He knew the video would help him show that the turtle needed help.

FWC connected him with one of their biologists, who called back within minutes. She started asking a lot of questions about the situation, but he knew that time was of the essence. He stopped her and explained that he could send her the video.

“That way you can see for yourself and assess for yourself exactly the situation and know how quickly he needs help,” McCarthy told her. He added that he had the exact GPS coordinates of where the turtle was thanks to his drone.

Within an hour, an FWC marine biologist was on the beach.

The biologist swam into the water and gently guided the large sea turtle towards the shore. Once on the sand, another bather used his umbrella to protect the turtle from the sun.

The FWC notified the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which has rescue and rehabilitation facilities dedicated to marine life. An aquarium crew arrived a short time later and were able to get the turtle onto a stretcher and into their van within minutes, according to McCarthy.

“Everybody had the ball. We all had our A game. Nobody stopped,” he said. “And hopefully that will result in this turtle’s full recovery.”

Video of the ordeal shared by McCarthy and the aquarium showed the turtle appearing to be panting while on the beach and being carried away on a stretcher.

After being rescued on Feb. 28, the turtle, who has been named Shenandoah, was still being groomed at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium as of Friday, an aquarium representative told Insider.

A patient page on the aquarium’s website shows photos of Shenandoah, which weighs 251 pounds and whose shell is about three feet long. Sample tests confirmed what biologists suspected, that Shenandoah was exposed to high levels of red tide, which can affect the turtle’s nervous system and make it weak or cause other abnormal neurological functions, making it a risk of drowning or stroke. from predators.

The aquarium representative said that once Shenandoah recovers, he will be returned to the ocean, likely close to where he was rescued.

Endangered loggerhead turtles are among Florida’s marine species affected by the red tide, a harmful algal bloom that produces toxins that can kill marine life, make shellfish unfit to eat and pollute the surrounding air. Red tides, so named because they can make water appear red, have occurred along the coast of the United States, but infamously appear off Florida’s Gulf Coast each summer.

McCarthy said that, in addition to Shenandoah, he had recently seen a dead turtle, dead manatee and dead fish washing up on the beach, and that seeing this red tide event so early in the year was a little “threatening” for what could happen. in this summer.

“I’m glad I did what needed to be done. I was busy, I didn’t want to stop everything, but I had to live with myself,” he said. “And I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t drop what I was doing and do what needed to be done.”

He added that he was grateful he was able to spot this turtle when he did, before it struggled further, like other marine life he’s seen, and ended up on shore already dead.

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