Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Murrells Inlet, SC
Arrival Date: 8/25/2018
Weight: 32.7 kg (72 pounds)
Harry Potter was spotted by a boater in Murrells Inlet near the jetties. This subadult loggerhead was floating at the surface of the water, had some epibiota on his shell and a boat strike across the left side of his head. The boater brought him back to Crazy Sister Marina where marine biologists Cassie Lopez and Christian Franks saved Harry Potter and called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to report the stranding. SCDNR permit holder and sea turtle transporter Terry Graham responded to the call and brought Harry Potter to the South Carolina Aquarium to receive treatment.
At the South Carolina Aquarium, Harry Potter received a fully physical exam. He had a relatively shallow propeller strike to the top of the head on the left side, which extended onto the carapace, and then another minor wound on the right side of the head. His left eye was swollen shut and he was minimally responsive in the right eye. Staff worried about damage to his brain and brain case so he received a CT scan. Harry Potter is one lucky turtle – his brain case was intact! This meant we could continue with treatment and stabilize the fracture on his head. Staff decided to triage Harry Potter and let him rest before surgery was done to stabilize the wound. He received fluids, antibiotics, vitamins, pain meds, and anti-inflammatory drugs. He was placed in a shallow waterbed to rest overnight.
August 29, 2018: The day after admit, veterinary staff came in to do surgery on the fracture on Harry Potter’s head. They placed shallow screws on either side of the fracture and used wire to pull the two pieces of bone together. They applied medi-honey and redi-heal to the wound to help it heal and keep out debris. Harry Potter handled the surgery well! He was placed on foam in shallow water to rest and recover. He has been receiving pain meds and antibiotics to help him rest comfortable and ward off infection. His heart rate has been getting stronger each day and he is becoming more alert. His left eye has started to open now that the swelling has gone down. Staff is keeping their fingers crossed for Harry Potter, and we hope he can live up to his namesake as “the boy who lived”!
September 1, 2018: Harry Potter has been receiving pain meds and antibiotics to help him rest comfortable and ward off infection. His heart rate has been getting stronger each day and he is becoming more alert. His left eye has started to open now that the swelling has gone down.
October 1, 2018: Harry Potter has really turned around in his first month in rehab! He began eating right away, but was having some trouble with targeting his food items. Not surprising to staff, he does not have sight in his left eye. But no worries, if all goes well, he can still be released with one good eye. Harry Potter rode out Hurricane Florence in a small tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery this month as well! He kept our ride-out team member Willow Melamet busy with water changes and cleanings because he had started defecating so frequently. This is a great sign, as that means that his GI is working well and digesting the fish we are feeding him. Harry Potter has been getting antibiotic injections and topical treatments to his wound every three days since his admission. The wound is starting to stabilize, and Harry Potter is now swimming in a full tank of water. We are all so proud of his progress and very happy that he has survived!
October 15, 2018: Harry Potter keeps staff smiling by spending a lot of time gazing out of his tank window. He has quite a bit of character, often surprising us with how curious he acts toward new items in his tank, such as nets, scrub brushes and fill pipes. His left eye moves around occasionally but it still appears non-visual. The wound on his head is now filling in with fibrin, or scar tissue. We are so happy with how well he is healing! He has finished all of his antibiotics and calcium injections. He is now on a healthy diet of multiple species of fish to give him the nutrients he needs to keep healing!
November 1, 2018: Harry Potter’s skull fracture continues to heal up incredibly well! Harry is a very active patient who’s often seen zipping through the tank. We are currently running weekly fecals to test for intestinal parasites. Harry’s left eye, which was affected by the injury, does not appear to be visual, but he’s able to locate and forage for food without any issues. Next week, Harry will receive a monthly weight and measurement, along with a physical exam by our vet team.
November 15, 2018: Harry Potter was recently pulled from his tank for a weight, measurement and physical exam. He received a good bill of health from our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan. Dr. Shane was able to remove the last metal bracket used to hold Harry’s skull fracture together. The fracture is very stable now and healing up well. His left eye – the one most affected by the hit – is beginning to have more movement associated with it and is no longer in a “cross-eyed” orientation. He still does not seem to have any vision in this eye. He continues to eat everything easily though and defecates a lot. He definitely keeps staff and volunteers busy netting out his tank all day!
December 1, 2018: Harry Potter is still doing really well. He continues to eat great and poop frequently throughout the day. We are carefully monitoring his ability to see out of his left eye. Currently, he still shows signs of blindness, though it definitely doesn’t slow him down! He can still be released even if he is blind in one eye – as long as he can catch his own live prey.
December 15, 2018: Harry Potter was moved to a new tank last week. This new tank has ozone built into the plumbing system. Ozone is a sterilizer and helps keep the water clean and blue. We chose this tank for Harry Potter because he has a contagious coccidian in his gastrointestinal tract. The coccidian, Caryospora, can be killed by using sterilizers in the tank water and cleaning out fecal matter as quickly as possible. Since it is contagious to other animals, we have Harry Potter on quarantine until his fecals show no more of this parasite. In every other aspect of his rehab, Harry Potter is doing wonderful! He is eating great, defecating regularly, and has recently been given a new piece of enrichment – a head tube! The head tube is there to allow Harry to place his head into it for a dark and cozy spot to sleep.
January 1, 2019: Harry Potter has adjusted well to his new tank. We are working with him on a quarantine protocol to minimize the cross contamination between his tank water and other patients. After the holidays, we will send a fecal sample to a laboratory to confirm the presence of Caryospora, an intestinal parasite. For now, Harry Potter is enjoying his holidays napping in his tank window!
January 15, 2019: Harry Potter is just cruising. He has his days of picky eating but overall, he’s doing great!
February 1, 2019: Harry Potter has continued to do well. His scar is looking good, and although he still does not have sight in the left eye, he can see his food fine and swims around great!
February 15, 2019: Harry Potter has been receiving a dewormer to fight the gut parasite he has. He has not been actively shedding it but that does not mean he doesn’t have it anymore. Sometimes parasites can lay dormant for a while before shedding in their fecal matter again. We are sampling his fecal matter monthly to keep an eye out for it. So far so good though and Harry Potter is doing great otherwise!
March 1, 2019: Harry Potter continues to improve and do very well in rehab. We do not see any improvement in the sight in his left eye, but the eye looks otherwise healthy. He has finished his dewormer so we are collecting fecals bi-monthly to monitor for any more parasites. We hope he can soon start the evaluation process for potential tagging and release!
March 15, 2019: Harry Potter is getting tagged and beginning the evaluation process for release this week. Stay tuned for more details!
March 25, 2019: Exactly eight months since admit and being treated for a severe propeller strike to the skull, Harry Potter was taken about 45 miles offshore and was released into the gulf stream!! Unlike our local waters, where the temperature fluctuates throughout the year, the gulf stream maintains around 70°F year round. For this reason, sub-adult loggerhead sea turtles will migrate to the gulf stream in the winter months to stay warm. We are so happy to see this guy return home!
March 25, 2019