UPDATE: Leatherback sea turtle to be released Thursday

Leatherback turtle comes ashore

Rare turtle appears at state park in ...

Rescue effort: Leatherback turtle returns

Turtle came ashore in Collier on Monday, ...

Mote Marine Laboratory hopes to return a stranded leatherback sea turtle to the wild on Thursday. While details for the release are still being finalized and plans remain fluid, we expect to release the turtle nicknamed "Lizzy" more than 20 miles offshore from Southwest Florida's coast.

The turtle was rescued from Big Hickory Island in Lee County on Tuesday. Blood samples taken since the turtles's arrival at Mote late Tuesday afternoon have not shown any clear signs of illness, said Mote veterinarian Dr. Andy Stamper. While it would be ideal for the turtle to remain at Mote for several more days for additional blood tests to be analyzed, current weather patterns and the difficulty of accommodating this particular species of turtle mean that it is in the animal's best interest to release it as soon as possible, Stamper said.

The nearly 800-pound turtle was brought to Mote by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after it stranded Tuesday in Lee County. Since the turtle's arrival at Mote, veterinary staff and volunteers have provided supportive care and are monitoring her condition around the clock. Leatherback turtles are a pelagic — deep water — species, and un-used to boundaries or walls, making it difficult to treat them in a confined setting. Rehab is rarely attempted with this species so returning her to the wild as soon as possible is of the utmost importance.

Blood tests have not shown any particular illness that the animal is suffering from. It's possible Lizzy was trying to nest when she was discovered on the beach. "That would be a very unusual behavior at this time of year, but reports about the way the turtle was acting on the beach sound as if she could have been performing nesting behaviors," Stamper said. "We think at this point — since she's not showing signs of infection or severe injuries — that the best course of action for her own well being is to release her."

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