Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
Arrival Date: 6/16/22
Age: Adult (female)
Weight: 57.04 kg (125.5 lbs)
Bea was discovered in the evening, lethargic and floating in the intracoastal off of Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island. The turtle was rescued thanks to multiple concerned citizens and a collaboration of charter companies. The stranding was first called in to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) by Captain Dave of Hilton Head Island Boat Charters, and then Bea was rescued on a jet ski by Neal Turner of Sea Monkey Watersports. Amber Kuehn, the Hilton Head Island Turtle Patrol Team leader and permit holder responded to secure and safely hold the turtle until she could be transported to the Sea Turtle Care Center ™ by SCDNR staff member Meredith Bean.
Bea arrived at the Care Center very weak, missing the majority of the right front flipper and covered in pluff mud, tunicates, bristle worms, crabs and thousands of marine leeches. Turtles like Bea, suffering from debilitated turtle syndrome, are often anemic. This can be due to blood loss or poor nutrition, so leeches are especially concerning. As part of the routine intake examination, bloodwork was taken, and it confirmed that Bea was severely anemic, dehydrated and had dangerously low glucose, calcium and protein levels. She was given IV hetastarch, fluids with dextrose, calcium, vitamins and antibiotics. During her fluid therapy, the staff manually removed as many leeches as possible. Being anemic, the turtle needed every remaining red blood cell she had left, so the plan was to move her to a freshwater bath in a large bin for several hours to remove the remaining leeches. Saltwater leeches and other marine parasites cannot survive in freshwater, so we will repeat these baths daily until they all die and fall off. Bea was later moved to a very shallow tank and allowed to rest overnight.
June 27, 2022: For the first few days following intake, Bea was pulled for freshwater baths and to have her blood glucose levels evaluated so she could be given the appropriate levels of dextrose and fluids needed to help improve hydration and energy levels. After a few days she began processing the fluids better and is now maintaining more appropriate blood sugar levels, though she is still very weak. We began offering Bea a couple pieces of fish daily with our assistance, but she is now eating the fish off the bottom of the tank on her own. Due to the fact that her digestive tract has been empty for a long period of time, we will need to start very slowly with her diet until she is digesting properly again. Bea’s prognosis is still guarded as she is very anemic, nutritionally deficient and likely fighting an infection from the flipper injury. Even with all the proper medications and treatment plans in place, Bea has a long road to recovery ahead of her.
July 15, 2022: Bea is still in very critical condition and is being treated accordingly. Her energy levels have not improved much since her intake. However, she has started eating a little more for us, which is great to see! To help keep her glucose values up and give her a little more energy, we have started splitting up her feedings throughout the day, rather than just in the morning. Bea’s shell is still extremely soft, and her skin is dangerously fragile. This is due to the extreme nutritional deficiency from her cause of stranding: Debilitated Turtle Syndrome. We have started Bea on an additional antibiotic and calcium injections to help her combat these issues. Due to her fragility, we are handling Bea as minimally as possible. As she is still in this early healing process, Bea still needs to be kept in shallow water so that she does not have to use too much energy to get to the surface to breathe. It is clear the Bea has been sick for a very long time, and we are glad she was rescued and made it to the Sea Turtle Care Center™. Her prognosis is still guarded, but we will do everything in our power to help her heal and feel as comfortable as possible. Send Bea all of your positive thoughts and good healing vibes!
August 15, 2022: Bea has really turned around over the past few weeks. Her energy levels have greatly improved. We started treating her skin lesions with Rediheal and Medihoney gauze. This seemed to really help, as the lesions are getting smaller! Even though she is getting better, she is still very fragile. Bea has finished her calcium and antibiotic injections, so we are going to be as hands-off with her as possible. She has been eating really well, taking her vitamins like a champ, defecating more frequently and is almost in a full tank of water! It’s been a long road to get to this point, and she still has a long way to go, but things are looking up for Bea!
September 15, 2022: Bea is finally in a full tank of water and is navigating the water column well! Their energy levels are still up and they continue to eat very well. They are getting wound checks every couple of weeks, and her wounds have shown improvement. Bea’s shell is still on the softer side, so she still has a long way to go. But so far, we are happy with what we are seeing! Hopefully in the next few weeks she can be promoted to a tank in Sea Turtle Recovery!
October 15, 2022: Bea has had a busy few weeks; she has finished the last of her oral vitamin C, finished her bi-weekly exams and is now in a tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™! She has started eating better for us. It’s likely that Bea will be with us through the winter as she still has a lot of healing to do. Come say “hi” to her, and be sure to send all of the positive healing vibes her way!
November 15, 2022: Bea is now stable enough that we are only pulling her for the regular monthly weight and measurements. All the lesions are continuing to heal! You may notice there is a nodule on her neck; these types of benign abscesses can form from the way turtles lift their heads to look upward. We prefer to let them resolve on their own, because often removing them can create a space for infections to occur. So for now, we are giving it time to heal on its own. In order to help discourage that “upward-looking” behavior, she has been given a couple of head tubes. It seems to be working! The abscess is not getting worse, and she can often be found taking a nap in the tubes!