Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Arrival Date: 05/23/2018
Weight: 47.4 kg (104 pounds)
Scabbers was found in shallow water right off of Kiawah Island near the Sanctuary. He was repeatedly spotted, struggling to surface in a tidal pool by beachgoers Samuel and Marilyn Guarnieri. Kiawah Island Turtle Team volunteers Lynee Sager and Cindy Lockheart came to the rescue! They quickly called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and waited with the turtle for SCDNR to arrive. Once SCDNR staff Tyler Harrell arrived, she quickly assessed the situation. Tyler and the volunteers waded into the tidal pool to rescue Scabbers. Once they began moving him, they noticed that he was missing a majority of his front left flipper, most likely due to a predator attack, and appeared to be tethered to something. With multiple lines wrapped around his body and flippers, Tyler carefully cut the rope to release Scabbers. They were pulling the rest of the line out of the water when they noticed it was attached to a second loggerhead sea turtle. The second loggerhead was severely entangled and unfortunately deceased. A stark reminder of the hazards of derelict fishing gear, and the all too real consequences of entanglement. Scabbers was most likely struggling to surface given the weight of the second turtle holding him down and was very fortunate to have been found in time. This lucky loggerhead was safely carried off the beach and transported to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) for medical treatment.
Upon admit, staff noticed Scabbers suffered from multiple constriction injuries. He had a very swollen right front flipper, with fishing line wrapped tightly at the shoulder. The line was cutting off circulation and needed to be carefully removed. Staff followed the rest of the fishing line and found that it was also entangled around the back flippers. After staff cut off all the line they began to examine the wounded flipper. The front left flipper was missing from just above the elbow and appeared to have been caused by a predator attack. This mostly likely occurred after Scabbers was entangled, rendering him helpless to flee or fight back. Staff flushed all of his wounds and applied silver collasate, a silver based topical ointment to help promote healing. Subcutaneous fluids were administered to help with rehydration, and he was started on a course of antibiotics. He was then placed in a bin with lots of foam and shallow water to rest comfortably overnight.
May 28, 2018: The following morning, Scabbers was put in a tank with shallow, low-salinity water. The lower salinity will help heal his wounds, and help with rehydration. As his wounds begin to heal he will have his salinity slowly increased, and as he begins to gain strength his water level will be raised. After a slow start with eating, Scabbers is now eating off of the bottom and foraging for his food! He’s mostly seen resting on the bottom but does have his moments of energy. Vet staff began cold laser therapy on his two front flippers. Cold laser therapy uses specific light wavelengths to help accelerate the healing process and decrease inflammation. Scabbers will have a long road ahead of him but he has taken well to his new temporary home.
June 15, 2018: When staff pulled Scabbers at the end of May we noticed he had a significant amount of swelling all over his entire body. He put on 20 pounds of water weight, potentially from an infection caused by the entanglement wounds. He’s on a couple of different antibiotics to help fight the infection and is starting to look so much better. He lost some of the water weight so he is beginning to slough off some skin. Scabbers is continuing to get cold laser therapy on all of his flippers, and they’re all healing really well! He has moved up to half a tank of water and is really enjoying the new depth. He’s continuing to eat great and defecating daily! He’s definitely started feeling a lot better but still has a ways to go.
July 1, 2018: Scabbers is healing so well! He has finished his cold laser therapy and the results are phenomenal. His missing flipper has healed over and has a layer of fibrin covering it! Fibrin is basically a sea turtle scab – it’s the first step of healing. The other 3 flippers that were entangled are healing well, too. His front, right flipper still has a little more healing to do because it was more entangled than the others, but the 2 back flippers are looking great! Overall, we’re so amazed at the progress Scabbers has made after only being in our care for a month!