FWC: Men remove shell from sea turtle, leave body on beach

Officials searching for men who removed shell

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Officials are searching for two men who reportedly removed the shell of a sea turtle that had washed ashore on June 8 in Jacksonville Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this week. 

According to the FWC, the immature green sea turtle was found washed up on the shoreline at 34th Avenue and a member of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol reported the dead turtle.

After leaving the beach, wildlife officials said, patrol members received a report that two men had removed the shell of the turtle and left the body on the beach.

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"It's very disheartening, very sad," Mary Mills, a member of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol, told News4Jax on Friday.

Florida law states that the possession of a sea turtle shell is a violation, as the animals are protected both federally and by the state of Florida. The people involved with mutilating the sea turtle could face thousands of dollars in fines and up to five years in jail.

"It's absolutely people simply not knowing and understanding the impact that they are making. I'm sure they did it in ignorance," Mills said. 

Although the turtle was dead, Mills said, the shell holds clues that the FWC can use to find out how the turtle died in the first place.

"It's very important for research so we can find out how to preserve them in the future," Mills said. 

The FWC said there are three simple things people can do to help sea turtles. First and foremost, don't mess with any sea turtle nests -- just let them be. Secondly, make sure you fill in any visible holes in the sand. And third, if people are at the beach at night, they should make sure all lights are turned off, including cellphone lights. 

Casey Jones, who patrols the beaches with the grassroots organization Florida Sea Turtle Watch, said more beachgoers need to receive education on how to help protect the species. 

"They have ruined the chance of us finding out what was wrong with it," Jones said. "The ignorance of people that do something like that and that don't think before they do it, or don't look it up, it's disgusting."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Wildlife Alert at 888-404-3922 or send a message to Tips@MyFWC.com. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.

The FWC encourages anyone who spots a dead or injured sea turtle, or sees someone harassing one, to report it to the Wildlife Alert. For more information on the Wildlife Alert Program, visit http://myfwc.com/contact/wildlife-alert/.

To learn more about sea turtles, go to http://myfwc.com/seaturtle.

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