loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island
Arrival Date: 05/14/2014
Weight: 28.4 kg
The third sea turtle to strand alive this past week was found near Hilton Head Island, a location where a significant number of our sea turtle hospital patients have been rescued from over the past decade. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources transported this juvenile loggerhead to our Sea Turtle Hospital, where SCA staff were ready and waiting to begin medical treatment. Interestingly, DNR also delivered a fishing rig composed of monofilament line, weights, and a hook that was reportedly entangled around this loggerhead turtle’s neck, although we did not see associated ligature marks during the physical exam.
Named “Mitchel,” this loggerhead was in surprisingly decent condition upon arrival, especially compared to the debilitated turtles we normally see in the spring. Mitchel’s heart rate was strong at 28 beats per minute. Blood work revealed a low normal glucose level of 67 that indicated this turtle had eaten recently. However, Mitchel was malnourished, anemic (PCV: 17), and covered in ebibionts like barnacles, and it was clear from the initial examination by our veterinarian that this loggerhead’s health was in a dangerous state of decline when he was rescued. Prognosis is good.
20 May 2014: Mitchel has been passing some very interesting fecals this past week! We’ve found various pieces of horseshoe crabs including the gills, and we also discovered a complete whelk egg case in Mitchel’s tank today. This is the first time any of our staff have heard of a loggerhead eating a whelk egg case, an unusual choice of prey that is usually found in very shallow waters of the intertidal zone.