Maybe this time, Paddy will stay gone.
Though for Bill Fauth and the volunteers with the Gulf and East Bay Turtle Patrol, it’s been an enjoyable connection all the same.
Researchers and staff from Gulf World Marine Institute were back out on St. Joe Beach at the Bay County line last week, joined by hundreds of onlookers gathered in the heat and humidity, phones and cameras ready.
The center of attraction was six green sea turtles, including Paddy, who has become something of a local celebrity due to his, or her, um, attraction for the local beaches.
She, he, can’t seem to stay away.
For his, her, second re-entry, Paddy was joined by a Rocket and some of the last turtles to recover from a January cold-stun event which impacted more than 1,200 turtles from St. Joseph Bay alone.
Unfortunately, Fauth, due to work conflicts, was not able to see his charge off; both times Paddy has been rescued Fauth has carried the tiny guy, girl, the 90 or so minutes to Gulf World in Panama City Beach.
“I released Paddy for (Fauth),” said Roni Coppock, also a volunteer with the Gulf and East Bay Turtle Patrol. “We had a huge crowd.”
Paddy was originally rescued March 19, close to St. Patrick’s Day and hence the name assigned to him by Fauth.
The transporting volunteers are typically given the honor of naming a rescued turtle, though the individual who notified turtle patrol was, unbeknownst to Fauth, partial to “Mad Dog” in honor the veteran who initially found the turtle.
In any case, Paddy rehabilitated at Gulf World from a compression fracture to the head and gash under one eye and was released July 17 from the beach access at the county line.
Ten days later, roughly eight miles away in Highland View, Paddy was once again found in the surf, struggling, by Barbara Eells of the Gulf and East Bay Turtle Patrol, and again carried by Fauth to Gulf World.
In transport, Fauth had no idea he had the same turtle; only a scan of a Gulf World tracker injected into the turtle revealed it was, in fact, Paddy.
Fortunately, the folks at Gulf World found no medical cause to hold onto him, her, and Paddy was deemed ready to head back into the water.
“The animal was given a thorough medical evaluation that did not present any cause for its stranding,” according to a press release from Gulf World.
Rocket, meanwhile, was found off Crooked Island just six days after Paddy was first rescued, March 25.
The turtle was covered in barnacles and extremely malnourished, according to Gulf World personnel.
After months of rehabilitation, antibiotics and nourishment, the turtle was also medically cleared to return to the wild.
As were four cold-stunned turtles, who lingered at Gulf World long after many of the other impacted turtles were released to the wild.
“Paddy, Rocket and the four cold stunned sea turtles are all diving and foraging successfully” and been cleared for release, according to a Gulf World press release.
During a cold-stun, the mid-January event was the second largest such event in recorded history, rapidly dropping water temperatures effectively shock the turtles; turtles in shallow bays and estuaries are particularly vulnerable.
And St. Joseph Bay’s seagrasses, particularly on the southern end, provide rich feeding grounds for juvenile sea turtles, so there are plenty hanging around to be stunned.
“There were several patients that stayed behind due to secondary illnesses such as pneumonia,” according to the press release. “Each animal is given individual care and the rehabilitation time varies depending on the animal’s case.”