Pawley | South Carolina Aquarium


Jun 18


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Pawley’s Island, SCArrival Date: 06/08/2015Age: JuvenileWeight: 14.1 kg (~31 lb.)

Case History

In an odd turn of events, two loggerhead sea turtles stranded on Pawleys Island on the morning of June 8th. This small juvenile turtle was found on the south end by Mary Schneider, a nesting beach patrol volunteer walking the beach looking for sea turtle nests laid the night before. Jeff McClary, a permitted sea turtle transporter and co-founder of the volunteer nest monitoring organization S.C.U.T.E., concurrently transported both this loggerhead (named Pawley) and a second named Midway to our sea turtle hospital for treatment. We’ve previously admitted as many as three sea turtles in one day, but they’ve never arrived on the same truck before!


Our team was ready and waiting to admit both Pawley and Midway when Jeff arrived. Pawley is the second smallest loggerhead we’ve ever admitted, and the old boat strike wounds on the back of his shell are quite large. Despite the extensive damage caused by the boat strike, it does not appear that the trauma compromised Pawley’s spinal cord or nerves as s/he is able to use all four flippers. However, it is possible that Pawley’s debilitated condition is ultimately the result of the boat strike, as the boat strike wounds would have resulted in severe pain and made it extremely hard for Pawley to feed normally, thus resulting in emaciation and debilitation over a period of month(s). On a good note, blood work was marginal but not critical (hematocrit: 26%,total solids: 2.1).


17 June 2015: Pawley is absolutely a favorite among many of our sea turtle hospital tour guests, in part because of his small size and severe shell damage. This little loggerhead was observed bleeding from the mouth shortly after admission, and our vet determined that the most likely source of the blood was a tear in the esophagus. It is highly probable that a fisherman may have caught this sick little turtle on a fishing hook (turtles that are struggling to survive may go after easy-to-catch bait instead of trying to chase down live crabs). Instead of gently netting the turtle up to assess the damage and potentially calling SCDNR at 843.633.1639 to report a hooked sea turtle for admission to our hospital, the fisherman may simply have ripped the hook out of the Pawley’s throat and caused a severe tear in the esophagus. However, esophageal tissue heals very rapidly, and we are hopeful that no long-term damage was done. Prognosis is fair.4 August 2015: Pawley is doing very well and continues to heal from his severe boat strike wounds. This little loggerhead is steadily gaining weight in our care and is constantly active in his tank, which he shares with another loggerhead patient named Pointer. Tour guests often don’t see his massive boat strike wounds for the many live barnacles still residing on his shell, and many guests question why we haven’t removed the barnacles. However, it is important to remember that the barnacles are not harmful, and are actually normally found living on loggerhead shells. Plus, the kids love watching their feathery legs (cirri)fan out in the water. Pawley’s shell still flexes quite a bit around the fractures, and so he will be in our hospital long-term until his shell has stabilized enough to permit his release back into the wild. Prognosis is good!12 August 2015: We pulled blood to check Pawley’s internal health today, and the results are excellent! Pawley’s hematocrit is up to 27% and total solids are much improved as well. Hopefully this little loggerhead will be ready for release in the near future.

Release Date

September 16, 2015

Release Location

Isle of Palms County Park
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