Gary | South Carolina Aquarium


Jun 06


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Pawley’s Island Creek, SC

Arrival Date: 5/28/2017

Age: Sub-adult

Weight: 45.6 kg (100.3 pounds)

Case History

Gary was rescued by kayakers on Pawley’s Island, SC. The rescuers had just finished a paddling trip on Pawley’s Island Creek and were driving down the highway, when they happened to spot a head pop out of the marsh mud. They thought their eyes were playing tricks on them until they saw Gary lift his head for a full breath. They realized there was a sea turtle stuck in the marsh! They quickly sprang to action and rescued him by carefully supporting his head, lifting him out of the oyster bed and on to the side of marsh. This was no easy task, as Gary weighs 100 pounds and was very stuck in the pluff mud! From there, the dedicated volunteer group South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiast (S.C.U.T.E) was called and Jeff McClary came to assess the scene. Jeff checked to make sure Gary was still responsive and called South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Terry Graham, S.C.U.T.E member and DNR volunteer transporter, drove the turtle two hours to the South Carolina Aquarium on Sunday evening. Thank you to all the people involved in Gary’s rescue.


Gary was alert but lethargic when he arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium at 8:30 pm on Sunday night. Sea Turtle Care Center staff quickly triaged Gary, including a physical exam and blood pull. Physically, Gary showed all the signs of Debilitated Turtle Syndrome (DTS). He had a heavy epibiota load on the skin and shell, and he was emaciated, lethargic and dehydrated. Blood work results indicated that Gary was also anemic (meaning he had a low red blood cell count) and had a slightly low glucose (blood sugar) level. To help with the dehydration and low blood glucose levels, 5% dextrose was administered subcutaneously (under the skin) along with vitamins and additional fluids. Gary received cardiovascular support in the form of Hetastarch, which was administered intravenously. Hetastarch helps by pulling fluids into the vascular space so they can be circulated through the bloodstream and throughout the body more effectively. Gary’s heart rate was strong, but on the lower end of a “normal” heart rate for a loggerhead sea turtle. He also had a hook that was embedded in his plastron (bottom shell), which was removed. Gary was started on a course of injectable antibiotics to help prevent any opportunistic secondary infections that can come with DTS patients due to their lowered immune systems. After triage, Gary was placed in a water bed with fresh water in our Sea Turtle Hospital overnight.


May 2, 2017: Gary has been responding well to supportive care! Gary is now on a small diet, and we are slowly reintroducing food. He is still very weak, but is comfortable in shallow water. We are hopeful that Gary will continue to respond well to treatment.

June 15, 2017: Gary finally started to defecate at the end of last week! With DTS patients, defecation post-admit is a great indicator of health. If a patient does not defecate right away, an impaction (blockage) in the gastrointestinal tract could be present. Since Gary’s gastrointestinal tract is starting to function more normally, we are slowly increasing his diet. We are also slowly increasing the water level in his tank as he gets stronger.

July 3, 2017: Gary is finally over the hump and is improving weekly! Gary is extremely thin. He just finished his antibiotics, and he is on a diet that will help him gain weight in a slow, consistent manner. In order to be as hands-off as possible, staff is only removing him from his tank for physical exams twice monthly. With a nutritious diet on board, we are hopeful Gary will make a full recovery with time.

August 1, 2017: Earlier this week, Gary got a visit from his rescuers who were happily surprised to see how much Gary had improved from the last time they saw him! Gary is starting to put on weight and is getting stronger each week! We did some blood work this week and Gary is still anemic, but his blood values have improved since he was admitted.

August 15, 2017: Gary is starting to put on more weight and is becoming more active each week! Now that Gary has finished his extended course of antibiotics, he is only being pulled for a routine monthly exam and weight. On Gary’s last exam, he was very feisty and strong! We are very happy to see Gary improve so much!

September 15, 2017: Gary is living it up in our largest tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery! Gary continues to thrive and grow stronger each week! We are so proud of the progress that Gary has made since being admitted 4 months ago.

October 1, 2017: Gary continues to improve in rehab! Gary still has a fair amount of weight to gain, but is loving his new tank in Sea Turtle Recovery!

October 15, 2017: Gary is continuing to gain weight and has become even more active in his large tank! Gary will be hanging out with us over the winter, so come visit him in Recovery!

November 1, 2017: Gary continues to do well and is still enjoying the largest tank in Recovery. Gary will be pulled for a check-up by our vet team in the next few weeks.

December 1, 2017: Gary was recently checked by our vet team and passed with flying colors! He looks great and is slowly gaining weight. Gary continues to do better every day!

December 15, 2017: Gary continues to do well and keep us busy by knocking down the spray bar in his tank multiple times throughout the day. Gary is still slowly but surely gaining weight.

January 15, 2018: Gary is doing great! He remains very active throughout the day, often splashing us as we walk by his tank. Gary is continuing down his road to recovery.

February 1, 2018: As you have read in past updates, we have had a lot of trouble with Gary eating his full diet. We decided to put him on a different feeding schedule, and since then he was been eating like a champ – he still only loves salmon though (we don’t blame him!).

February 15, 2018: Gary has been very active the past few weeks and is eating well on his new feeding schedule!

March 1, 2018: We have learned that Gary is not a huge fan of his vitamins, and it can be quite the ordeal to get him to eat them with his fish. Gary will be scheduled to receive an exam by our vet staff soon!

March 15, 2018: Gary continues to eat well on his new feeding schedule. STCC staff has noticed that Gary is starting to fill out and has been much more active than in previous months.

April 1, 2018: Gary continues to eat well on his new feeding schedule. STCC staff has noticed that Gary is starting to fill out and has been much more active than in previous months.

April 15, 2018: Gary was moved into another tank in Sea Turtle Recovery last week, so now you can see Gary up close and personal. Though Gary has improved so much over the last year, we are giving him some more time to gain weight before considering him as a potential release candidate.

May 15, 2018: Gary is continuing to be a selective eater and will only eat salmon. Gary’s blood values have improved, but we are still waiting on him to gain weight before he’s considered a release candidate. Gary is now front and center in a tank in Recovery so come say “hello” and check out the progress he’s made!

June 1, 2018: Gary, or “Gar-bear” as STCC staff calls him, is doing well but still needs to put on weight. Gary was recently moved into our exercise tank to see if that stimulates his appetite and helps him build some muscle. Spoiler alert: Gary is not a huge fan of exercise. Gary will receive another weight check later this month and we will go from there.

June 15, 2018: Gary is still in the exercise tank and is doing well. He will hopefully be a release candidate in the near future!

July 1, 2018: Big news for Gary – he was pulled for tagging day this week! Gary received a physical exam and blood pull by our vet staff and received flipper tags! We are hopeful that Gary’s blood work will deem him release ready! Additionally, Gary was moved out of our exercise tank and put in a tank in the front window of Recovery. He’s come a long way since his arrival a year ago!

July 15, 2018: Gary has been cleared for release! We’re all so proud of how far Gary has come during his time here. He’s very ready for his journey home and is currently packing his bags!

July 19, 2018: Gary went home yesterday along with fellow sea turtles, Buckbeak and Farrah. Watch them greet the waves!

Release Date

July 18, 2018

Release Location

Folly Beach County Park

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