Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Found floating in Folly River
Arrival Date: 07/17/2014
Weight: 45.0 kg (~100 lb.)
This juvenile loggerhead was found by local fishermen, Bruce Humbert and Jimmy Walsh, as they returned to Folly boat landing from an afternoon of fishing. These gentlemen are not new to sea turtles in coastal waters this time of year so they easily recognized that the loggerhead was unable to dive and extremely lethargic. They called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and as good timing would have it, Robert Boyles, Deputy Director of the Marine Resources Division of SCDNR, was working close by in the field and transported the ill turtle to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital where staff were waiting to provide medical care.
Staff immediately noted the heavy small barnacle coverage indicating the turtle had been lethargic for a while, as well as an old boat strike wound cutting deeply in the carapace. Blood work was surprisingly good and but indicative of dehydration, therefore ~500cc of Normosol was administered subcutaneously. The wound was lightly derided, flushed with sterile saline, and topical Granulex was applied to promote tissue healing. “Boyles” was put on two types of antibiotics to kill infection. When admission treatments were complete, Boyles was put in a shallow pool of water in the Sea Turtle Hospital and s/he exhibited very odd swimming behavior that makes us think there could a neurological problem.
26 July 2014: Boyles showed no interest in food for the first several days so staff attempted to force feed by opening his/her mouth and placing fish in the back of the mouth. Although this can normally be accomplished easily by gripping the upper and lower beak and pulling them apart, it was impossible to open Boyles’ mouth without using ropes. Yikes, lockjaw. This animal will be with us for a while. Stay tuned to see what we have to do for this turtle every day!
20 August 2014: Boyles’ lockjaw required staff and volunteers to initially force feed him every day, which was quite a process! It required us to get in the tank with Boyles and float him on a dock. We would use ropes to open and close his mouth; this motion was repeated multiple times and acted as physical therapy for his constricted jaw muscles. We would then place pieces of mackerel inside Boyles’ mouth, allowing him to chew and swallow each piece. We could see the improvements in his jaw’s range of motion daily and, after two weeks of force feeding, Boyles started eating pieces of fish off tongs. This was a HUGE improvement and certainly a step in the right direction.
We subsequently tried to broadcast feed Boyles’ diet, but immediately noticed he was unable to find the food. After multiple tries with the same result, we began to worry about his vision. Staff veterinarian Dr. Boylan performed a fluorescein stain on both eyes to look for abrasions, but both eyes appeared to be ok. We reached out to our dear friend Dr. Anne Cook, a veterinary ophthalmologist, for a consultation. She examined both eyes and performed an ultrasound but found nothing abnormal. She reported both eyes were intact and looked great. Now the big question: Why is Boyles unable to see his food? We have extended his steroid treatment, which should help with any potential inflammation in the brain. Stay tuned to keep up on news and progress about this tough sea turtle.