Jan 5, 2010 5:41 PM by Bea Karnes

Giant sea turtle makes rare Florida visit

It was a spectacular sight at Florida's Vanderbilt Beach as a rare leatherback turtle made its way into Gulf waters and onto the beach shore.

Wildlife experts say the sighting is so rare, they think the turtle may be injured.

Monday's sighting was the first time a leatherback has ever been spotted on Collier County shores.

"From what I hear it's a rarity for them to come to Southwest Florida and actually be on the beach here. So to have one come in is quite a rare occasion," said resident John Yuccas.

They mostly visit Florida's east coast and parts of South America.

Park rangers say this one may have come from Costa Rica, over 1,000 miles away.

Dozens of people looked on Monday morning as the 600 pound female floundered in the surf.

Among those in the crowd were some Collier County park rangers concerned for the endangered animal's well-being.

"It was doing a rotation on the beach which is an orientation they do after they nest," said Maura Kraus of the Collier County Parks and Recreation Department.

After watching the turtle's behavior, park rangers roped off the area where they say the turtle may have laid eggs.

Leatherbacks typically lay eggs in March, so this one was a bit early.

Kraus says the turtle may have been disoriented or even injured.

For hours it resisted going back out to sea.

Once it did, officials up the shore were alerted to be on the look-out.

"We just have to wait and see. We hope she doesn't come back," said Kraus.

Kraus says the chances are the turtle won't be coming back.



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