A lost loggerhead sea turtle is safe and back in the ocean after fast-acting volunteers rescued it after it was spotted in the middle of a road on Wednesday.
Just before dawn, volunteer Karen Anderson with the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring noticed something was wrong and alerted other volunteers when she didn't see evidence the turtle made it back to the ocean.
"When you see the crawl out you should see the crawl back into the ocean," said the organization's director, Suzi Fox. "But Karen didn't see that and immediately knew something was wrong and called everyone out to help her look."
They found the turtle within about 20 minutes, but not before it traveled quite a distance on North Shore Drive before walking into the middle of N Bay Boulevard.
Using several large sheets, AMI turtle watchers were able to safely lift the turtle and got it back to the ocean. They said that the loggerhead appeared to be nearly 400 pounds and is likely more than 40 years old.
There is a dip in a section of Bayfront Park, where the turtle exited the ocean, and volunteers think it was in that dip when she lost sight of the water.
"She has to see the water at all times in order to get back to the ocean. The second they lose sight of it they can get lost," Fox said. "I don't think it was any human error or any light. I think she just lost the sight of water."
The turtle was likely trying to nest, but she was moved before that could happen. "No nests for this girl today," the organization wrote on its Facebook page.
"Fast-acting volunteers are what saved this turtle," Fox said. "She could have been hit by a car or dehydrated or flipped over."
During turtle nesting season, residents should remove obstacles such as chairs or umbrellas from the beach and should turn their lights off at night.