Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Folly Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 6/2/23
Weight: 3.67 kg (8.09 lbs)
Hootie was caught on hook and line at the Folly Beach Fishing Pier. The angler was able to safely hoist them up the pier via hoop net, minimizing further injury to the hooked location in Hootie’s mouth. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources staff responded to retrieve Hootie and transport them to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for treatment.
Hootie came in active and feisty, which is always a good sign. Radiographs were taken promptly for initial determination of the hook placement within the esophagus as well as the potential presence of other hooks and treatment moving forward. Luckily, the hook was accessible from the mouth and not too deeply embedded in the esophagus for removal. Thankfully, no other hooks were found. Hootie was mildly sedated, and our vet staff worked quickly to remove the hook. After removal, Hootie was started on antibiotics to prevent infection, given fluids and vitamins and their sedation was reversed. Hootie came to quickly and was placed in a full tank of water.
The following day, Hootie was calmer and acclimating well to their tank. Hootie is in great body condition and was able to rest on the bottom of the tank and actively swim — all signs of a healthy sea turtle. After oral procedures like hook removal, patients are fasted from a few days to a week to allow the location to heal. Sea turtles and other reptiles have slower metabolisms for energy conservation and do not need to feed every day in the wild. Though Hootie is at a great body weight, we’re sure they will be looking forward to their fish offering later this week!
June 15, 2023: Great news: Hootie is active and eating! When a turtle comes in with a fish hook in the mouth we typically fast them for a few days to allow for the wound to heal. Staff supplements with fluids and vitamins until it is safe for the animal to start eating again. Hootie was offered fish after fasting and ate very quickly! We will continue to increase their diet while keeping an eye on their feeding behavior to make sure they are comfortable and unhindered by oral pain. So far so good!
July 15, 2023: Hootie has been increased to a full diet and is exhibiting no signs of oral pain which is great! Additionally, Hootie’s antibiotic treatments are complete! Because of these factors, this turtle has been moved to Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ and can now be seen when you visit the Aquarium!
August 15, 2023: Hootie, like many Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, tends to “crawl” on the bottom of the tank. This behavior is due to this species naturally foraging for crustaceans and mollusks that typically hide under the sediment. Staff offered an octagon-shaped enrichment to encourage the patient to scratch the underbelly of the shell, or plastron, while they hang out at the bottom of the tank. Luckily, Hootie took to it quickly and has put the enrichment to good use.
September 5, 2023: Great news: Hootie was released! S/he was released at Folly Beach County Park today and took off like a rocket ship. We’re happy to see Hootie go back home. Wish her/him luck out there in the big blue.