SAN DIEGO -- Veterinarians at SeaWorld are nursing a critically injured green sea turtle that was found in San Diego Bay wounded in the neck with a shotgun.
Bruce, whose species is threatened, is a 250-pound adult male turtle.
"Had he not come in and been given the care that we're giving him, which turned out to be lifesaving, he probably wouldn't have made it," said Tim Downing SeaWorld Assistant. Curator of Fishes.
Bruce was shot in the neck with a shotgun. The x-rays revealed four pellets still lodged in the muscle of his throat.
"It's sad and startling," said Downing who has been treating Bruce since he was brought to SeaWorld last Tuesday. "It's unfathomable what some people do when they're out there, so it is a shock."
Vets said they won't remove the pellets since they didn't damage any arteries or major organs and removing them might actually cause more damage. They believe the turtle was shot some time ago.
"They're in the bottom of his neck so it suggests that he was shot at when he lifted his head out of the water to take a breath," said veterinarian Hendrik Nollens."
Bruce has been monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 2009. During a routine data check in the South Bay, Bruce was found to be lethargic, breathing slowly, dehydrated and with major lacerations to his tail and flipper.
"He was brought to us pretty much as a dying turtle," said Nollens.
Bruce has been on bed rest since he arrived at SeaWorld, and medical professionals there said they've seen major improvements. They said he is now eating on his own and swimming again.
"He's doing a 100 times better than he was last Tuesday night," said Downing.
Vets said Bruce is one of maybe only 50 green sea turtles in our area and a rare mature male.
"He's one of the few animals that are actually capable of breeding, and so he could be a key animal for the population," said Nollens.
The goal is for Bruce to be treated and taken back to the wild. Folks at SeaWorld expect that to happen sometime in the spring or summer when the waters are warmer.