Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta)
Stranding Location: Cherry Grove, South Carolina
Arrival Date: June 8, 2016
Weight: 74 kg (163 pounds)
When this large loggerhead arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium, it was quickly unloaded from the transport vehicle to the hospital’s mobile scale. The turtle had an old propeller wound on the shell and was covered in marine growth indicating “she” was lethargic in the ocean. SCDNR transporter, Linda Mataya, pointed out the metal flipper tags on the front flippers indicating the turtle had been been tagged by a nesting, in-water or rehabilitation program. Once in the medical facility, veterinary assistant Whitney Daniel took one glance at the patient’s size and distinct flipper shape and immediately knew this was Briar, a patient that was treated in 2013! Just goes to show how much love and dedication goes into rehabilitating these turtles that two years later, staff are able to identify an individual!
Briar, the Aquarium’s first repeat patient, was originally admitted in May 2013 and took 14 months to fully recover for release back into the wild. Not only was she one of the most debilitated turtles admitted in 2013 but was the first loggerhead to develop cataracts shortly after her admission, causing her to become blind. The opaque lenses were surgically removed by Dr. Anne Cook and her wonderful team at Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry. Briar was released soon after.
Typically, sea turtles are not heard from again after release, so we were quite surprised when we learned who the new patient was. The absolute best part of this admission is that it occurred almost 2 years after her release in 2014 which tells us that she had been thriving in the ocean prior to boat strike. Radiographs revealed lots of shell in her GI tract confirming she had been successfully eating the typical loggerhead diet of hard-shelled prey.
Aside from being 25 pounds lighter than her release weight in 2014 and the boat strike wound on her shell, Briar appeared in fairly decent body condition. The weight loss and heavy barnacle load suggest that the boat strike caused her to become lethargic and stop eating. Otherwise, she was alert and active, and her blood work was within normal limits. Radiographs were analyzed and, although somewhat distorted by the presence of barnacles on the carapace, it did not appear that the right lung was punctured. After antibiotics, fluids and vitamins were administered, she was placed in a full tank of fresh water in the Sea Turtle Hospital. The deeper water level allowed staff to observe her swimming behavior, her ability to use all limbs and monitor for any buoyancy abnormalities. Briar took well to the tank and was able to fully submerge and come up for air normally. Her tank level was dropped overnight so she could rest.
June 15, 2016: One week after admission and Briar is doing great! We are happy to report that her vision appears normal, as she is able to easily locate her food of thawed mackerel, capelin and smelt. She has now been swimming in a full tank of water for several days and does not exhibit any issues with buoyancy. She will continue to get antibiotic injections every three days and repeat radiographs in the next week or so. We are hopeful she will make a full recovery!
August 1, 2016: Briar is definitely a fan favorite, always swimming near the surface and splashing people during the tours. She continues to do well and just needs time for the boat strike wound to heal.
September 13, 2016: Briar recently moved into a tank with a “view!” She now spends a lot of time looking out her window and taking in the sights. This energetic loggerhead loves to eat and is currently being fed almost 5 pounds of fish per day. Her boat strike wound was examined by the aquarium’s veterinarian and due to the lack of keratinization of the wound, Briar will most likely be over wintered and released in late spring of next year.
September 30, 2016: Briar continues to be perpetually hungry – she’s always looking out her tank window with her mouth open hoping for food to magically appear. But don’t be fooled by this cute beggar as she is getting a hefty diet of over 4 pounds of fish a day! Briar continues to happily eat any fish type that she is given, unlike a majority of the picky patients in our hospital!
October 15, 2016: Briar’s wound continues to heal slowly and is taking awhile to keratinize. In the meantime, she is eating well and is very active.
November 3, 2016: Briar continues to do well and is quick to devour her 4.8 pounds of fish daily! Due to the time of year, we are speculating that she is in “migration mode” which would explain her insistent swimming and splashing. When not on the move, Briar is commonly seen resting peacefully with her head in her pvc pipe tube.
November 20, 2016: Briar was pulled for an exam and weigh-in this week- she is maintaining a healthy, robust weight. Her carapace (top shell) fracture is looking healthier, but still has some healing left to do. Briar continues to be one of our splashiest patients and is still very active.
December 15, 2016: Briar was pulled for a quick exam and blood work this week. Briar has reached a very healthy and robust weight and her bloodwork is excellent. Unfortunately, her carapace fracture still has a long while to go before it is completely healed.
January 6, 2017: Briar’s carapace fracture is healing up nicely! She is maintaining a healthy weight and seems to have settled down as she has been splashing less over the past two weeks.
February 7, 2017: Briar continues to do well, but her boat strike wound is still has a lot of healing to do! In hopes of speeding up the healing process, we will be starting cold laser therapy next week. Stay tuned to learn more about how its working!
March 6, 2017: Briar is continuing to do well, and the fracture is healing slowly but surely. Briar continues to be extra splashy and active!
April 3, 2017: Briar was pulled for a weight and physical exam last week and now weighs 200 pounds! Briar’s boat strike fracture, across the top of her carapace (top shell), is really starting to fill in. Briar’s size and large diet can be very taxing on the filtration system and on water quality. In order to combat this we have added upgrade means of filtration to her tank, and it seems to be doing the trick!
May 1, 2017: Briar is doing amazingly well. Her boat strike wound is almost healed, and it will only be a matter of days until this repeat patient is ready to go back home! Since she is already flipper and PIT tagged, once she gains medical clearance it will be a quick preparation for release. Her combined total of rehabilitation time from now and her previous stay back in 2013/2014 adds up to a little over two years of care. Due to her extensive stay and the fact she is the Sea Turtle Care Center™ first repeat patient she will forever hold a dear spot in her caregivers’ hearts.