A sea turtle made landfall in Key West during Elsa — and it involved the police

·2 min read

In the Florida Keys, police work can sometimes involve coming to the rescue of a hard-shelled pal out crawling around in the rain.

Key West officers helped steer a stranded loggerhead sea turtle back to the ocean on Tuesday morning as Tropical Storm Elsa was sending high winds and rain to the island.

“Police duties vary widely!” the department posted on its Facebook page, along with photos of the turtle and the officers during the assist.

Key West police officers on July 6, 2021, helped this sea turtle return to the ocean during Tropical Storm Elsa.
Key West police officers on July 6, 2021, helped this sea turtle return to the ocean during Tropical Storm Elsa.

Officers Tyler Getchel and Mike Brablc rescued the loggerhead, who was spotted at the Outer Mole pier, said police spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

Owned by the U.S. Navy, the Outer Mole is one of three ports that welcome cruise ships and is near the city’s Truman Waterfront Park.

“The turtle had somehow gotten up on the seawall,” Crean said. “They had to lift it up, put it in the truck and take it to the boat ramp. They pointed it in the right direction.”

The turtle appeared disoriented and could not find its way back home to the ocean, Crean said.

“They guided it back to safety,” she said

Key West police officers on July 6, 2021, helped a sea turtle return to the ocean during Tropical Storm Elsa.
Key West police officers on July 6, 2021, helped a sea turtle return to the ocean during Tropical Storm Elsa.

People in the Keys love sea turtles. There’s even the Turtle Hospital in the Middle Keys city of Marathon. With its ambulance, the nonprofit rescues, rehabs and returns them back to the sea.

Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital Manager, had a couple of theories about the Key West police rescue.

“It could have been the water or a female nesting, because females will come on land to nest and it’s nesting season,” she said. “Probably a female. Probably disoriented.”

This happens with turtles, she said.

Zirkelbach said, “We’ve had them in the middle of the road on Key Colony Beach or at people’s doors because they follow artificial light.”

Ralph Capone, president and founder of the Key West Sea Turtle Club, couldn’t talk specifically about this turtle rescue because he hadn’t heard the details. But he wasn’t surprised that the police pitched in to help.

“We have a total commitment of the people,” Capone said. “We have the police, the fire department, the mayor.”

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