Lucky nearly got cooked. But Lucky got lucky.
In May the "extremely endangered" Kemp's ridley sea turtle was snagged by a fisherman off Davis Islands.
Instead of releasing the reptile into Hillsborough Bay, the fisherman brought it to his home and placed the juvenile turtle — which lives in saltwater — into a freshwater tank, according to The Florida Aquarium.
The fisherman placed Lucky in the backyard of his Tampa home, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The man ultimately planned to cook and eat the turtle, said Susan Coy, a veterinary technician with the aquarium. But a neighbor reported him to authorities.
Fish and wildlife authorities rescued Lucky, and on May 24 the turtle was brought to The Florida Aquarium's Center for Conservation team.
Fish and wildlife officers knew the sea turtle was protected but couldn't immediately identify its species, Morse said. They issued the fisherman a warning about having the sea turtle in his possession, and their intent was to turn over the case to federal authorities for possible prosecution, pending the identification of Lucky's species.
The fisherman told investigators he didn't know the creature he had captured was a sea turtle, and said he didn't know it was protected, Morse said.
A Florida Aquarium veterinarian began caring for the turtle, which was in decent condition but was lethargic and not eating well, Coy said.
"We basically just gave him a lot of (care)," she said.
The aquarium successfully rehabilitated Lucky, and the 15-pound reptile was released into the wild Wednesday in the water at Cypress Point Park, 5620 W. Cypress St.
"I'm going to miss him a little bit," Coy said, "but I'm glad he didn't wind up on someone's dinner table." Coy said.