PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Life didn’t start out easy for dozens of diamond terrapin turtle hatchlings.
"It was survival of the fittest right from the start," said Kris Porter of Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife.
More than 70 baby diamondback terrapins turtles were found caught in seaweed that washed up on a Pasco County shoreline after Hurricane Michael. Rescuer Kris Porter says she never saw anything like it.
"Those little guys had to hang onto something during the hurricane waves and that’s what they did," said Porter.
Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife with the help of other rescues including Busch Gardens Animal Care Center has been caring for the hatchlings since October. They've been waiting for the red tide to subside and then winter to be over before it was safe enough for the turtles to be released.
The turtles were taken to a secluded spot in Pasco County to be released, so no humans would interact with them.
The diamondback terrapins known for their unique markings and ridges on their backs are close to being on the threatened species list because of the pet trade and getting caught in crab traps.
"To find these little ones during a hurricane washed ashore was pretty miraculous," said Eric Munscher, director of the Turtle Survival Alliance North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group.
Turtle experts from across the nation came to help release the turtles in a marshy brackish area.
"This will act as a nursery where they can eat, there’s a lot of good food in here for them. They can get bigger and eventually when they decide they can go to the Gulf of Mexico," said Munscher.
For more information about Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife or to help the organization, visit owlsnestsanctuaryforwildlife.com.