Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Buck Hall boat landing, McClellanville, SC
Arrival Date: 07/20/2014
Weight: 34.3 kg (~75 lb.)
This juvenile loggerhead was found lethargic and floating by Buck Hall boat landing in McClellanville, SC by a recreational fisherman who contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Michelle Pate, Sea Turtle Coordinator from SCDNR, transported the animal to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital for examination and medical treatment.
Upon arrival, staff found the heart rate to be 32 beats per minute and proceeded to take morphometrics and check for pre-existing tags. Blood was taken for full analysis and despite the outward appearance (thin, loaded with barnacles, lethargic), “Buck” had excellent blood work. Because of the buoyant nature of the turtle, initial treatment included two antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids and vitamin C. When Buck was put in a shallow tank of brackish water, s/he displayed very odd swimming behavior that resembles neurological problems seen in past cases. This could turn out to be a very interesting case!
21 July 2014: Radiographs were taken to see if the cause of Buck’s floating was apparent. Typically, floating is caused by air trapped in a turtle’s gastrointestinal tract by an impaction or by air in the coelomic cavity (body cavity). Coelomic air can be caused by a number of things including internal infection. Both intestinal and coelomic air can normally be seen on x-ray but in this case we saw nothing out of the ordinary, making this case even more puzzling. So far, Buck has no interest in food.
4 August 2014: Buck and another juvenile loggerhead, Boyles, both stranded within days of each other displaying similar neurological issues and symptoms of lockjaw. These two cases do have a few differences, however. (Please check out Boyles’ page for relevant updates.)
Buck is still lethargic, asymmetrically buoyant, and being kept in a shallow tank of water. However, this turtle is eating on his own as of July 29th, which is great news as his body needs the nutrients to recover from illness. The chewing necessary to eat is great physical therapy for his jaw, which has a limited range of motion, and we are also manually exercising his jaw to increase its range of motion. We are continuing treatment with medications, including antibiotics.
24 September 2014: Thanks to the generosity of Charleston Veterinary Referral Center, Buck received a CT scan on September 12th. We were able to determine that Buck’s lungs and gastrointestinal tract are completely normal. However, this loggerhead is still exhibiting odd behaviors, including hypermetric flipper movements, and we are unable to keep him in a full tank of water due to concerns about him flipping himself upside down and potentially drowning. We will continue to closely monitor this case and seek a resolution to this turtle’s issues.