Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Edisto Beach State Park Environmental Learning Center fishing pier
Arrival Date: 06/05/2014
Weight: 4.8 kg (~11 lb.)
A fisherman at Edisto Beach State Park captured this small juvenile Kemp’s ridley on hook-and-line, an occurrence which is becoming more common as recent Kemp’s ridley population increases have brought more small juveniles into South Carolina’s coastal waters. This conscientious fisherman immediately sought help from State Park staff as the turtle had swallowed the hook. SCDNR was contacted and responded quickly to transport this little ridley to our sea turtle hospital. SCA staff are grateful that this fisherman chose to aid this critically endangered sea turtle rather than simply cutting the line and letting it go with the hook still embedded in the throat, a situation which could have resulted in unintentional suffering and death for this animal.
This young Kemp’s ridley, named “Bay,” was in fairly decent body condition upon admission. His heart rate was strong at 20 beats per minute, and blood work results indicated he’d been feeding well in the wild (glucose 74 mg/dL, PCV 26, total solids 2.8). In many cases, our veterinarian is able to remove hooks without resorting to surgery. However, Bay’s hook was seated deep in the esophagus. Under sedation, our vet made a small incision in the underside of Bay’s neck near the thoracic inlet, which allowed him to access and remove the hook fairly easily. Luckily, the tissue of the esophagus heals very quickly and does not require sutures. After a brief fasting period of 7 days, this little ridley will be offered a healthy diet of fish and vitamins, and his recovery period prior to release should be relatively brief.
15 June 2014: We offered Bay a few pieces of smelt for the first time on Friday the 13th, and he devoured them! This is a great sign that he is feeling well and has quickly adapted to our rehab holding tanks. His surgery site is healing nicely, and his prognosis is good.