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!
January 15, 2023: Bea now has a larger tank up in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™! You can now find her in tank 7, the deep tank in the back. She looks phenomenal in that tank. We are going to keep an eye on her weight, and maybe she will be able to gain enough to go home in a few months.
February 15, 2023: Bea has been looking good these past few months, but she still has a long way to go. Staff would like to see her fill out a little more. Her plastron is still slightly concave, and we are still able to see the tendons in her neck. She has been eating well for us, but with such a slow metabolism, it takes sea turtles a very long time to recover. Once she puts on that weight, we will determine if Bea is ready to go home!
March 15, 2023: This past month we noticed that the mass on her right rear knee had grown quite a bit. So, we decided to pull her from her tank to get a closer look. Once Bea was out of the water it did not look as bad as we expected, and it was decided to leave it alone completely. It turns out her skin had just continued to heal in a little bit of a funky way and did not have any material inside of it. Overall, this was the best outcome because a surgical removal is more invasive. We were also happy to see that Bea put on a good amount of weight. She’s on the right track to head home this summer!
April 15, 2023: Bea is making a splash up in Sea Turtle Recovery; she can often be seen splashing one of the biologists or vet staff members. We all say, “be careful you are in the splash zone!” Bea continues to improve in the Care Center — hopefully she can go home later this summer. We would like to see her put on some more weight before she does though!
May 15, 2023: Bea is looking great and giving us that “I’m ready to go” attitude! When she’s not eating or napping, she’s splashing reminders at us that she’s active and angsty. Her plastron looks to have flattened out, indicating that she may finally be at a healthy weight. We’re excited to pull her soon to get an accurate weight and measurement. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a summer release!
June 7, 2023: We have some very exciting news to share with you all: Bea has been released! After over a year in our care due to debilitated turtle syndrome, Bea was released this past week at Folly Beach. We wish her the best of luck! If you would like to watch Bea return to the ocean, her release was livestreamed on the Aquarium’s Instagram!