Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Joint Base Charleston, North Charleston, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 7/12/2021
Weight: 16.9 kg (37 lbs)
Howlite was caught on hook-and-line in the Cooper River on Joint Base Charleston. When the fisherman saw that she had swallowed the hook, they used a dip net to pull Howlite out of the water and promptly contacted South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). SCDNR technician, Cami Duquet, responded to the call and transported Howlite to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for hook removal.
Cami immediately noticed an older boat strike on her carapace and notified admitting staff before she transported her to the Sea Turtle Care Center. Howlite had already been through a lot for such a young sea turtle! At admit, Howlite was very alert and active. The boat strike was packed with pluff mud, making it hard to assess how severe the damage to her shell was. Admitting Care Center™ staff got a weight and took an x-ray to determine the location of the hook. Luckily, the hook was located high enough in the esophagus that they were hopeful it would not require surgery to be removed. After the x-ray, staff flushed all of the pluff mud out of the propeller wounds to better assess the damage caused by the boat strike. There were two deep wounds across the top of the carapace, and the lower portion of the shell behind the third strike was missing. Once the shell was cleaned up, she was sedated for CT to better access the boat strike injury and to remove the fishing hook. Luckily for Howlite, after several attempts to remove the hook non-surgically, Dr. Shane was able to remove the circle hook with minimal trauma to her esophagus. While under sedation, the CT scan was conducted, fluids with vitamins were administered and antibiotics were given. Howlite was quiet but alert and was left to rest comfortably in a padded foam bin for the rest of the evening.
July 15, 2021: Howlite was moved into a shallow water tank the following morning after admit. The CT scan indicated that the boat strike did injure Howlite’s spine and, while she currently has minimal use of those rear flippers, she has deep pain response. Thankfully, she is defecating normally. We will continue to assess the wounds as they heal and the swelling reduces. We are working on a treatment plan with the goal of helping her regain normal flipper use again so that she may be considered a release candidate.
September 15, 2021: Howlite was recently moved up into our exercise tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery on the first floor. We wanted to better evaluate his ability to use his rear flipper and control his buoyancy at a deeper tank depth. So far, we have seen improvements in his ability to stay flat on the bottom, and he has no issues diving to forage for food. As long as he’ll tolerate it, we are also doing physical therapy with him to see if that helps improve his ability to have full use of his rear flippers while he’s in the tank.
October 15, 2021: Howlite has continued to show subtle improvement in their ability to use their rear flippers. Staff has observed them resting flat on the bottom, able to dive normally to forage for food and have not seen significant buoyancy issues in the exercise tank. The next step is try Howlite in our deepest tank to see how they are able to swim and maintain buoyancy.
January 15, 2022: Howlite has become a guest favorite in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Howlite is cruising around our deepest tank with ease and is very active. We will be pulling them for a weight and exam later this month. Come check out Howlite next time you visit the Aquarium!