Stranding Location: Pawley’s Island, SC
Arrival Date: 06/08/2015
Weight: 42.42 kg (~94 lb.)
Jeff McClary, co-founder of the non-profit organization S.C.U.T.E. (South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts) that engages volunteers in sea turtle nest monitoring activities, helped rescue this stranded juvenile loggerhead from a sand bar at the south end of Pawleys Island. Rescuers recognized that this animal (named Midway) was weak, had marine leeches hanging from both corners of the mouth, and was clearly in need of medical treatment. Interestingly, another loggerhead (named Pawley) stranded just prior to Midway on Pawleys Island as well. As such, Jeff was able to efficiently transport both turtles to our sea turtle hospital at the same time.
Our team was ready and waiting to admit both Midway and Pawley when Jeff arrived. Staff were concerned about Midway’s visibly poor health; also, the initial heart rate taken with our Doppler was irregular (arrhythmia) and slow at only 10 beats per minute. Our vet administered IV hetastarch to provide the heart with additional fluid to pump, and the heart rate quickly began to sound much stronger, increasing to 20 beats per minute. As with all of our debilitated animals, additional supportive care was provided and this animal was closely monitored following admission.
17 June 2015: Midway’s leeches are long gone, thanks to a freshwater bath! The freshwater kills the leeches, which do feed on the animal’s blood and so contribute to anemia, while concurrently rehydrating the sea turtle. However, we are closely monitoring Midway’s fecals, as this animal began passing large amounts of plastic on the 11th. Identifiable plastics included a red latex balloon and pieces of both grey and white plastic grocery bags. It is likely that this massive amount of plastic caused a partial impaction of Midway’s GI tract and contributed to this loggerhead’s debilitated status. On a good note, Midway seems to be more active and alert now that the plastic is being evacuated from his system. We aren’t sure how much remains, however, as plastic can’t be seen in an x-ray, and so this turtle is being watched carefully for sudden signs of illness.
4 August 2015: Midway is one feisty sea turtle! This loggerhead is clearly in good spirits in our hospital, and is eagerly eating absolutely every healthy morsel of food we offer him. (On the flip side, he also poops a LOT, which means our husbandry team has to work extra hard to keep his tank sparkling clean.) We have not seen him pass any additional pieces of plastic since the first couple of weeks after admission, which hopefully means his system is clear of foreign bodies. His blood work is improving but this animal is not yet ready for release.
12 August 2015: We pulled blood to check Midway’s internal health today, and the results are excellent! Midway’s red blood cell count is much improved, as is the level of proteins in the blood. Hopefully this loggerhead will be ready for release soon.