Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)Stranding Location: 3rd Avenue South on Myrtle Beach, SC Arrival Date: 08/26/2014 Age: Juvenile Weight: 22.8 kg (~50 lb.)
Case HistoryOn August 26th, a petite juvenile loggerhead stranded near 3rd Avenue South on Myrtle Beach. Not only did this turtle have boat strike wounds to the head that appeared about a month old but, to add insult to injury, the right front flipper had been considerably shortened by a predatory fish. Based on the semicircle of teeth marks left on the plastron (underside) of this turtle, this little loggerhead survived an attack by a fairly large shark. Long-time SCDNR nest protection volunteer Linda Mataya transported this animal to our sea turtle hospital.
TreatmentNamed “McAdoo” in reference to his stranding location, this young loggerhead received a full physical exam to assess his numerous injuries at admission. The right front flipper was stripped of skin to the point that the carpal (wrist) bones were exposed. Quite worrisome was the fact that both the upper and lower jaw were damaged. This may inhibit normal feeding behaviors from this animal in the wild, as loggerheads are designed to eat hard-shelled prey like crabs and whelk. The lower beak was missing a good portion of the keratinized tip, and there was a large, deep wound where the right ramus should be (if you feel your lower jaw, the ramus is the vertical bony portion that extends up toward your ear). Luckily, the right eye wasn’t damaged by the deep cut through the bone of the skull directly behind it. Blood work performed at admission revealed severe hypoproteinemia (total solids 0.8), a lack of proteins like albumin in the blood which results in edema and makes the skin look flabby. This anemic animal was also moderately emaciated. Initial treatment included fluids, two injectable antibiotics, injectable vitamins, IV hetastarch (to supplement blood volume), and pain medications. We treated the severe flipper wounds with Medihoney and collasate, and applied honey-impregnated calcium alginate to the deep jaw wound. Prognosis is guarded.
Updates24 September 2014: Charleston Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC) has generously donated CT and MRI scans for various sea turtle hospital patients over the years. On September 12th, CT specialist Mike Parks of CVRC performed CT scans on McAdoo and Boyles, another current patient. For McAdoo, we were able to clearly visualize the damage caused by the boat strike to this loggerhead’s jaw and maxillae and determine that, luckily, the cranium itself is normal. However, there appears to be damage to the right ear as well, which may mean this loggerhead is deaf on that side. This will not prevent him from returning to the wild, however. We are continuing intensive treatment on the shredded right front flipper, including applications of plasma and cold laser therapy every three days to aid in tissue healing/regeneration. McAdoo is enjoying his filtered tank, eats very well, and does not seem to be in any discomfort from his numerous wounds. 5 April 2015: We applied cold laser therapy to McAdoo’s damaged flipper every three days from September 19th through November 30th. The flipper has healed better and faster than we ever expected! The exposed bones have been fully enclosed by healthy tissues and articulate normally, and keratin is reforming on the external tissues of the flipper. Charleston Vet Referral Center performed another CT scan on McAdoo on Friday, April 3rd, which will allow us to evaluate the healing progress of his fractured jaw. While the missing flipper is not a concern in regards to McAdoo’s eventual release, as we know sea turtles will three flippers typically thrive in the wild, the ability of the jaw to safely crush shelled prey is a huge concern. This feisty loggerhead will want to prey on various species of crabs and mollusks when he returns to the wild, and we need to make sure his jaw is healed well enough for him to safely do so!
Release DateJune 8, 2015
Isle of Palms County Park, SC