Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 07/28/2018
Weight: 4.42 kg (9.7 pounds)
Late Saturday afternoon, a juvenile Kemp’s ridley was accidentally hooked by a fisherman at the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier. Kemp’s ridley are notorious for going after baited hooks. They are also the species we treat most commonly for injuries due to fisheries interactions. If you hook a sea turtle, the best possible action you can take is to use a dip net to bring the turtle onto the pier, and seek assistance from a park ranger or pier official. The turtle should be minimally handled and kept in the shade. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources should be contacted (24-hour hotline 1-800-922-5431) in order to give further instruction and coordinate the transport of the turtle to the South Carolina Aquarium. We have found that there is usually an underlying injury or ailment, or additional hooks, in most of the patients that are admitted for hook and line. Luckily on Saturday, one of the Myrtle Beach State Park Rangers was there and SCDNR was contacted. SCDNR volunteer transport and SCUTE member, Cami Batylock and her husband, transported this endangered species over 2 hours down to Charleston. Thank you, Cami!
On admission, we lovingly named our newest patient Dobby after the house elf in Harry Potter. Dobby was very active during the triage process and was doing his best to “swim” off of the exam table! Radiographs revealed that the hook was in the mouth and not in the esophagus, a preferable location. Dobby was given a light sedative and the hook was removed by Dr. Shane Boylan. Blood work revealed slight dehydration and mild metabolic acidosis. The metabolic acidosis was most likely a physiological response to being handled after being hooked, and potentially the stress of transport. Medication was given to correct for the high lactate levels, in addition to the standard vitamins and fluid therapy. Dobby was started on a routine course of antibiotics and is expected to make a speedy recovery.
August 1, 2018: Dobby was fasted for a couple days after admission, to give the wound on the side of his mouth time to heal. Today, he was offered food; however he had little interest and spent his time blatantly ignoring the delicious morsels of food. Later in the day, we offered him both mackerel and lake smelt. Almost immediately after it went in the tank, he gobbled the mackerel right up. Then he proceeded to “taste test” the smelt, and spitted it out! Clearly we have a picky eater on our hands. Fecal material indicated that Dobby has been foraging on stone crabs, and eating very well prior to being hooked. We will increase his diet overtime, and hopefully get him in tip-top shape so he can be released.
August 15, 2018: Dobby is doing splendidly! He had a vet recheck to look at the wound in his mouth from the fishing hook. It has healed nicely and is no longer of concern. We are happy to report that he is eating well and very active! He was started on an oral dewormer to help with his current internal parasite load. Other than the parasite issue, he is progressing nicely.
September 1, 2018: Dobby is one active turtle, and is commonly seen zooming around his tank. We have recently added various types of enrichment to appease his energetic personality. We are also collecting fecal samples weekly in order to monitor his parasite load. Fingers-crossed Dobby will be ready to return home in a month or so!
September 21, 2018
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge