Green (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: Bailey Island, Edisto, SC
Arrival Date: 08/31/2014
Weight: 15.1 kg (~33 lb.)
The week prior to Labor Day 2014, we admitted to the hospital three sea turtles with severe boat strike wounds to the face and beak: this green sea turtle we’ve named “Bailey, a loggerhead currently undergoing treatment named “McAdoo,” and a Kemp’s ridley with catastrophic wounds. These cases are often frustrating due to the severity of the facial wounds and, when rehabilitation is successful, the likelihood of permanently inhibited feeding behaviors once the animals are returned to the wild.
Bailey, the largest green turtle (33 lb.) we’ve ever treated in our facility, was found floating in Fish Creek near Bailey Island, SC. Quickly transported to our hospital by SCDNR nest protection volunteer Barb Gobien, Bailey was the first of three turtles to be admitted on Sunday, August 31st (also check out Seabrook, our third turtle admitted that night). This young turtle’s plastron was concave and clearly revealed his emaciated status. An old boat strike wound had cleaved off most of this animal’s beak, and his shell and soft tissues were covered with tube worms, leeches, and barnacles. In addition, this turtle’s eyes were asymmetrical, with the left eye being significantly reduced in size and questionable in its function.
Bailey received supportive care upon admittance, which included fluids, injectable vitamins, pain meds, an antibiotic, and a freshwater bath to remove the leeches. Blood work was marginal (PCV 26%, TS 2.6) but glucose levels were normal, a remarkable situation given the problems this turtle likely experienced feeding over the past few month(s) with most of his beak missing. X-rays revealed a fractured right maxilla (upper jaw) but, luckily, no gastrointestinal gas. However, when Bailey was first placed in water, he exhibited asymmetrical positive buoyancy. Hopefully this issue will resolve itself quickly.
23 September 2014: Earlier today, our veterinarian surgically excised several small growths that appeared recently on the soft tissues surrounding Bailey’s right front and rear flippers. Bailey tolerated this simple, pain-free procedure quite well thanks to the use of the local anesthetic lidocaine. These tissue samples are on their way to a histopathologist at the University of Florida for identification.
30 September 2014: Juvenile greens of Bailey’s size class are primarily herbivores feeding on sea grasses. As such, our feeding regime initially consisted of offering Bailey vegetables, primarily leafy greens, in addition to a couple of calcium-rich smelt suitable for hiding her vitamins in each day. After slowly ramping her diet up to equal 3% of her body weight in veggies daily, Bailey passed her first fecal on September 20th. However, s/he became lethargic and positively buoyant due to excess gastrointestinal (GI) gas shortly thereafter. This required fasting her for several days until she was able to clear the gas from her system. Currently, Bailey is eating 1% of her body weight in veggies daily and we are closely monitoring this emaciated turtle to ensure she is able to put on weight without bloating.
8 October 2014: Bad news: the tissue samples we sent off for analysis on September 23rd were positive for Chelonid Herpesvirus 5, which means we’ve now confirmed South Carolina’s very first case of a sea turtle with fibropapillomatosis (FP). This tumor-inducing virus is prevalent, particularly among green sea turtles, in areas with warmer waters like Florida and Hawaii. Since this virus is highly contagious, we’ve isolated Bailey from all of our other patients as well as our current facilities allow, and we’ve established strict quarantine guidelines for this animal. Thankfully, humans are NOT at risk of infection. Stay tuned for updates.
11 May 2015: Bailey has really thrived over the winter under our care. Her buoyancy issues related to excess GI gas were primarily resolved last fall and, since admission, this feisty green has gained nearly 10 pounds. She loves to eat all of the yummy organic veggies we provide including dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, and kale; she won’t touch chard, however! Her immune system has become much stronger and we’ve seen the remaining small external tumors associated with FP regress on their own. Although Bailey will have some challenges feeding in the wild due to her missing upper beak and the loss of sight in her left eye, our veterinarian and staff have been observing this turtle feeding in her tank since last September and are all very confident that she has a good chance at survival in her natural habitat, a chance she truly deserves. As such, Bailey has been medically cleared for release and will be returning to the ocean soon!
May 14, 2015
Isle of Palms County Park