After a lengthy stay at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, an adult loggerhead turtle will return to the sea on Saturday.
Hunter will be released promptly at noon on Higgs Beach behind Salute Restaurant in Key West. The public is invited. The ambulance will arrive at 11:30 a.m. and Turtle Hospital workers will be on hand to answer questions, hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach said.
Fishermen found Hunter on Aug. 8, 2012, floating in Florida Bay off Conch Key. The Coast Guard station in Marathon assisted turtle hospital staff with the rescue, Zirkelbach said.
The turtle was extremely underweight and suffering from lockjaw, most likely due to an infection, she said. The ailment prevented the turtle from being able to open its beak to feed. X-rays taken at the turtle hospital revealed that Hunter had ingested fishing hooks.
Dr. Doug Mader of Marathon Veterinary Hospital removed a fishing hook that was lodged in Hunter's mouth. After almost three months of rehabilitation, the reptile was able to open its mouth to eat.
Hunter was treated with vitamins, a broad spectrum of antibiotics, and a healthy diet of squid and fish, Zirkelbach said.
"He was getting better, then he would crash," she said. "Now he's doing really well."
Hunter is now a healthy 220 pounds, up from the 170 pounds he weighed when he was rescued.
"He needs to get back out there and start making turtle babies," Zirkelbach said.