Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: 5-Fathom Creek, McClellanville, SC
Arrival Date: May 14, 2016
Weight: 21.8 kg (~50 lbs.)
Boaters enjoying Charleston’s beautiful May weather came across this 50 pound loggerhead on the edge of an oyster bank in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. When they approached the animal and s/he didn’t attempt to move away, it became apparent that something was wrong. They made a call to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) who asked them to transport the turtle in their boat to the McClellanville boat landing. The boaters were were met by SCDNR volunteers, Mary Pringle and Barbara Bergwerf. These turtle ladies transported the juvenile loggerhead to the South Carolina Aquarium for treatment.
When this juvenile loggerhead arrived at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, it was not instantly apparent why the turtle stranded. Outside of being lethargic, s/he was in good body condition with no external wounds, and only had a sprinkling of barnacles on the soft tissue and face, much less than the typical barnacle load we see with our debilitated turtles. Our hospital team quickly got to work performing diagnostics to find the cause of stranding. We pulled and processed blood which was found to be within normal limits, so we turned to radiographs in hopes of solving the mystery. The x-rays revealed what appeared to be several whelk egg casings in the GI tract. Since this could not be confirmed with radiographs alone we remained guarded, as this could potentially be man-made materials such as plastics. Supportive care was administered including fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. With the help of the SCDNR transporters, we decided to name this turtle Fathom after the creek in McClellanville where it stranded.
24 May 2016: May has definitely been a busy month! We have been receiving several sick/injured turtles each week, and sometimes two in one day! Since admission, Fathom has successfully passed what turned out to be whelk egg casings and not plastic. Staff was able to breathe a sigh of relief as the material was passed naturally. In total, s/he ended up passing 6 egg casings. Over the past week and a half, hospital staff has been slowly increasing the amount of food being fed and s/he is now eating around a pound of mackerel and salmon each day. This turtle is actively searching for food in the 1,000 gallon tank and is routinely observed rubbing against the PVC back-scratcher. Overall, Fathom is doing very well and should hopefully make a quick recovery.
18 June 2016: Fathom continues to improve each day. Overall, Fathom’s body condition is fairly good, but the shell appears moderately decalcified and soft in a few spots. In order to help with this calcium deficiency, calcium injections are being administered every three days, as well as an injection of iron and antibiotics. For enrichment Fathom has recently started getting frozen fish pops, which are ferociously gobbled up every time! After a couple months of good nutrition and vitamins, we are hopeful this turtle will be back in fighting form!
July 1, 2016
Isle of Palms County Park