Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island, SC

Arrival Date: 04/18/2010

Age: juvenile

Weight: 3.3 kg (7.3 lbs)

Case History

A recreational fisherman caught Surfer, a 3.0 kg Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, on a hook baited with shrimp while fishing in the surf off Hilton Head Island. Surfer swallowed the hook and it became lodged deep in the esophagus. While the hook and any internal damage it may have caused are our primary concern at the moment, our initial exam also revealed that Surfer is lethargic, underweight, and suffering from an infection manifesting itself as numerous small red lesions in the neck and shoulder region.


This turtle was triaged with pain medications, subcutaneous fluids, vitamins, and antibiotics. The radiographs (x-rays) taken upon admittance showed a large hook situated deep in the esophagus. Hook removal was performed 19 April under complete anesthesia as we had to access the hook by surgically opening the esophagus from the outside near the plastron. Local blocking and hemostasis kept blood loss to a minimum, but the shrimp bait was still present on the hook making the procedure more difficult. After hook removal, the surgical entry into the esophagus closed and prevented the placement of a feeding tube. Although the surgery ended around 2 PM, the turtle required mechanical ventilation by volunteers and our veterinarian until 11 PM that night. Prognosis is guarded.


22 April 2010: Surfer was placed in a shallow pool of water today and has been quite active. Prognosis is still uncertain.

12 May 2010: Surfer is doing amazingly well. S/he was relocated to a filtered tank on 3 May and is actively diving and enjoying the view out of her tank window. The red lesions indicative of infection are no longer visible, although Surfer is still continuing antibiotic treatment. Excitingly, endoscopy of Surfer’s esophagus on 29 April revealed that it was healing nicely, and we began feeding this little turtle on 1 May. S/he eagerly consumes every type of fish we offer her and seems to have no difficulty eating.

4 August 2010: Surfer is thriving in our care and has been cleared for release! Bloodwork parameters are excellent, Surfer’s neck wound is nearly invisible, and this turtle has filled out nicely on the variety of fish offered in her daily diet.

25 August 2010: Surfer will be released at Folly Beach County Park this Saturday, August 28th, at 4:00 p.m.

Release Date


Release Location

Folly Beach County Park, SC

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