Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Found in the marsh at Hunting Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 05/13/2016
Weight: 61.1kg (~140 lbs.)
The stranding call came in at approximately 10 am on Friday, May 14th. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) confirmed a stranded loggerhead at Huntington Beach State Park. This was not your typical stranding – the large turtle was stuck in the marsh, in a pluff mud-lined creek at low tide. If any of you have experienced walking in pluff mud, you probably figured out quickly that it is pretty much impossible to do, as you sink into it like quick sand. State Park Ranger Mike and the Huntington Beach State Park staff devised a perfect plan for the rescue. They stretched plywood sheets across the creek bed until they reached the turtle and the group of four carried him/her across their temporary “bridge.”
Once the turtle was pulled from the mud, SCDNR and South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E.) volunteers, Terri Graham and Nancy Crawford, were on hand to load the turtle and transport it to the South Carolina Aquarium for medical care. Once again, this wasn’t the typical patient – s/he was robust and healthy with the exception of several large wounds on the flippers. The agitated turtle crawled out of the kiddie pool it was being transported in and proceeded to crawl all around the back of the SUV, pluff mud, blood and all!
Upon arrival to the Aquarium, the first job was to hose this muddy turtle off. Once semi-clean, the turtle was quickly transported up to the first floor Animal Medical Facility. One quick glance and it was clear this turtle had an unfortunate encounter with a hungry shark. S/he had sustained several bite wounds to all four flippers, with approximately a third of the left front flipper missing. Fortunately, this sub-adult loggerhead is in good body condition and overall good health. Marsh was given pain medication, antibiotics, fluids, and vitamins before being placed in low water level on foam for the night.
24 May 2016: We are very fortunate at the South Carolina Aquarium to be able to provide our patients with top-quality care which also includes clean tanks and filtered/sterilized water. Thanks to our hard working life support team and Sea Turtle Hospital staff, our superb water quality allows us to put turtles with open wounds straight into a tank of water with little risk of infection. Once placed in his/her new home, it was evident that this turtle had gas in its GI tract as his posterior end (back end) was floating in the water column. After a few days, the cause of this gas became clear. Much to the dismay of volunteers and staff, Marsh started producing numerous pieces of both hard and flexible pieces of plastics. Several pieces appeared to be from grocery bags. Luckily, this turtle was able to pass these pieces of man-made material on his/her own but it just goes to show that wildlife really is affected by our plastics. Marsh is just one of many examples of how important it is to use reusable grocery bags and limit the use of single-use plastics.
15 June 2016: Marsh’s oral exam revealed a whopper of a longline hook, complete with braided steel wire, stuck in the throat. Following sedation, the bend of the hook was found curving around the trachea, a potentially life-threatening situation. Our vet was able to skillfully palpate the hook’s bend to differentiate it from the adjacent hyoid bones and, with great care, cut the hook in half with a dremel blade. Finally, the barb fragment and the rest of the shank were gently teased out of the turtle’s throat.
Currently, there is some swelling present in Marsh’s neck at the incision site which is being closely monitored. Despite the throat injury, Marsh is eating well. However, both rear flippers exhibit range-of-motion peculiarities. The left rear flipper is periodically overextended and the right rear flipper, while used for steering, is held tucked in close to the plastron. These rear flipper range-of-motion issues are likely complications associated with the shark attack, as it is possible this turtle was caught on the longline hook and unable to escape while the sharks were biting and pulling on the flippers. This is certainly a very resilient sea turtle with exceptional survival skills!
1 August 2016: This robust turtle is doing great! Earlier this week, Marsh received a physical examine done by Dr. Shane Boylan, and received flipper tags and a PIT tag in preparation for release. The veterinarian was pleased with March’s progress and believes this turtle will be ready to go back to the ocean in the next of couple weeks.
18 August 2016: Marsh’s shark bite wounds are healing wonderfully. Preliminary, pre-release bloodwork is looking good. If the rest of the results come in within normal limits, Marsh will be cleared for release in the very near future, making Marsh and Moon our 199 and 200th patients released to date!
August 26, 2016
Isle of Palms County Park