Species Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: DeBordieu, Georgetown, SC
Arrival Date: 3/16/2020
Weight: 5.98 lbs (2.72 kg)
Beach goer, Worth Hinshaw, found Hungry Neck floating in the water on Debidue beach. After bringing Hungry from the water, he noticed Hungry was missing a back flipper and had some damage to a front flipper. Worth contacted The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). SCDNR sent out a volunteer transporter, Bill Bradson. Bill is also a member of the South Carolina Untied Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE). SCUTE is a group of volunteers working with sea turtle conservation in Georgetown and Horry counties in SC. Once Bill arrived, he did a quick assessment of Hungry before being transported to the Aquarium. Bill met up with another SCDNR volunteer transporter, Barb Gobien. They met half way and Barb finished the drive to the Aquarium.
Upon admit, staff noticed Hungry Neck had several wounds all over his body. He was missing his rear left flipper entirely, had severe damage to the other back flipper, a laceration to the front right flipper, and an injury to the right side of his face that appears to be from a predator. We think the wounds to his flippers are likely boat strike injuries. Most likely he was hit by a boat, which then limited his mobility making him an easy target for a small shark. Along with the prop strikes, he had several small barnacles growing on him, indicating he wasn’t swimming as much or at all. Radiographs showed he has several broken bones in both right flippers, front and back. The radiograph showed that the back flipper was just attached by skin, as almost all the bones that hold it together were fractured. It is worrisome that he is already missing one flipper entirely and could potentially lose the other. Our typical rule of thumb for a reasonable turtle is two flippers on opposing sides, i.e. front right, back left or vice versa. If he were to lose the other flipper, we would have to evaluate if he would be a good release candidate. After radiographs and a full body exam, Hungry received some pain meds, fluids, vitamins, and antibiotics. His bloodwork, overall, wasn’t terrible and he was a little dehydrated, but the fluids helped with that. We let him rest in a comfy waterbed overnight.
March 22, 2020: The following days after Hungry Neck’s admit we continued to take it easy on him. He received pain meds for one more day and continued to receive fluids daily. On Friday, the 20th, Hungry went through a procedure to try to reattach his back right flipper. Dr. Boylan was able to reattach the flipper, but it will take time to see if his efforts were successful. We need Hungry to heal the area so we can evaluate his flipper use. Two days following surgery, we tried Hungry in a tank and he was full of energy! He was even using his back right flipper slightly. He was a little uncoordinated, so to be on the safe side we wet docked him over night. While we happy to see he’s an energetic turtle, Hungry Neck has a long road ahead of him and his prognosis is guarded.
April 15, 2020: Almost all of the sutures on Hungry’s back right flipper have popped again, but the sutures on his front right flipper are holding strong. Today, Hungry went through a procedure to connect and stabilize the bones in the flipper. We are hopeful that this will help to stabilize the flipper and the area where it was severed so it can heal back together. If we can successfully reattach the flipper, Hungry has a great chance of being released. Hungry has a long road of healing and recovery ahead of him, and we are doing all that we can before making any major decisions about his future treatment plan. Send all the positive vibes to this little green!
May 1, 2020: A couple weeks ago, Hungry Neck went through a procedure to try and stabilize the bones in his back flipper. Vet staff used a fish skin from the company Kerecis to graft onto the wound to promote naturally occurring skin regeneration. After his procedure, Hungry was dry docked for a few days because we wanted to limit the movement of his back flipper as much as possible. After a few days, he moved into a wet dock for a little bit longer. While he was out of water, he was receiving fluids and vitamins to make sure he was staying hydrated and receiving some electrolytes. Hungry Neck is now back in his kiddie pool to continue to limit his movement, but make him a bit more comfortable in water and allow us to feed him. His sutures in his front flipper were removed, and overall the wound looks good. It is pretty swollen but staff is keeping a close eye on it. Most of the sutures in his back flipper are gone too but the fish skin is still holding strong. Right now we’re going to see how Hungry heals his flipper on his own. When it is entirely healed, we’ll observe his behaviors and decide what the best next step is for him.
May 15, 2020: Hungry Neck had a checkup this week to re-evaluate his left rear flipper. Dr. Boylan did an exam, removed some exudate material (called fibrin) and overall, the area is starting to heal. We still aren’t sure if there’s going to be any more complications from the injury to his flipper, but we are hopeful it is finally on the mend, and that we won’t need to do another procedure to attempt to correct it. Hungry Neck has been swimming around like a normal spazzy green, so that’s a good sign! Continue to send Hungry Neck all the positive vibes!
June 1, 2020: Hungry Neck’s rear flipper is continuing to heal up nicely! We are so surprised at the progress he’s made and of his ability to use his rear flipper. We are just taking it week by week and monitoring his healing progress.
July 15, 2020: The healing of Hungry Neck’s flipper has been amazing. We are so pleased to see that the Kerecis fish patch appears to have really helped the wound granulate and fill in quicker than we expected. The flipper is far more stable than it was even at his last checkup. This active turtle has quite the appetite, and continues to eat everything we throw his way, including a recent treat of moon jellyfish!
September 15, 2020: Hungry Neck has made it up to Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery! Hungry Neck’s back, left flipper has healed up so well, and he’s using it normally. We are just giving her time to strengthen it and allow the new tissue that’s healed to toughen up. It’s extremely sensitive right now. Come check out Hungry Neck next time you’re at the Aquarium!
October 15, 2020: Last week, Hungry Neck was pulled for a weight, physical exam, bloodwork and was tagged by SCDNR. Though Hungry Neck has not been medically cleared for release, when we pull an animal we try to coordinate as much as possible so that we can minimize handling. The wound on his rear flipper has made incredible healing progress. After seven months, he looks like a completely different turtle! Stay tuned for exciting updates!