Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
Arrival Date: 01/02/2018
Weight: 30.0 kg (65 pounds)
This juvenile loggerhead was found stranded near mile marker 88 on Hilton Head Island during some of the coldest weather we’ve had in the Lowcountry. Jon Snow was on the beach with a body temperature of a frigid 36°F when he was found. Thankfully, Amber Kuehn of the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) live transporter volunteer, quickly responded to the stranding call. When she went to go check this cold-stunned loggerhead for any tags, he moved ever so slightly, indicating that he was still alive! Amber coordinated with the SCDNR to meet in Beaufort. SCDNR employee Emma Schultz quickly drove this cold-stunned patient the rest of the way to the aquarium for treatment. This nearly frozen turtle became the Sea Turtle Care Center’s first patient of 2018!
Knowing that we had a cold-stunned patient coming in for triage, our vet staff lowered the temperature of the exam room so that he would not warm up too quickly. Getting Jon Snow out of the frigid elements and into the transport vehicle warmed up Jon Snow’s temperature a few degrees, but his admit temperature was still only 40°F. Jon Snow was lethargic, but still responsive with an extremely low heart rate of about 1 beat per minute. Similar to hypothermia in humans, cold-stunning in sea turtles can cause a decreased heart rate and respiration rate. Blood work was taken and a physical exam was quickly given. Lots of sand was packed in his mouth, nares and eyes, which needed to be flushed to remove the debris. Fluids therapy was started on a slow drip, and vitamins were given to aid in rehydration. Jon Snow was also started on an injectable antibiotic to help combat any secondary infections, such as pneumonia or osteomyelitis (bone infection) that we typically see as a result of cold-stunning. Jon Snow spent the night resting comfortably on foam and receiving fluids in our medical facility.
January 10, 2017: Jon Snow was admitted the night before the big winter storm that came through Charleston. He was closely monitored by staff, who stayed at the Aquarium through the storm to ensure the safety of the patients. Jon Snow’s body temperature was slowly increased a few degrees daily, and he received heart rate checks and fluid therapy each day. On Friday of last week, Jon Snow was placed in a shallow water tank and started to slowly swim around the tank; food was subsequently offered and he ate immediately! Jon Snow continues to improve daily, and we are going to slowly increase his diet and the water level in his tank over the next week. We are so happy to see Jon Snow recovering so well after being one of the coldest turtles we have ever admitted!