Labor Day weekend turned out to be an incredibly busy time for the Sea Turtle Rescue team! For only the second time in our history, we admitted three stranded sea turtles in one day on Sunday, August 31st. All three were victims of negative human impacts.
Barb Gobien and Barb Bergwerf, permitted Sea Turtle Rescue volunteers, arrived with our first patient at 1:45 Sunday afternoon. Weighing 33 pounds, this juvenile green from Edisto was twice as large as any of our previous green sea turtle patients. Despite decent blood work results, this animal was in very rough shape due to an old boat strike wound to the head that cleaved off most of the upper jaw and damaged the lower. In addition to uncertainties regarding this animal’s ability to feed well in the wild, staff are concerned about potential brain trauma and vision issues. This patient was treated and dry docked on a bed of foam in the hospital. Confident that we’d likely not receive another stranded turtle that night, our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan, went home to enjoy a celebratory anniversary dinner with his wife. Unfortunately, dinner had to be cut short.
At about 6pm that evening, we received notification that two additional turtles, both Kemp’s ridleys, were in need of our help. Our sea turtle biologists quickly reconvened and met Jenna Cormany, an SCDNR biologist, carrying the most critical case of the evening snuggly wrapped in a towel. This 8-pound ridley from the Mount Pleasant area was the victim of a recent boat strike to the head that almost completely detached the right half of his lower beak and severely fractured his upper beak. Staff worked quickly to temporarily stabilize the hanging jaw fragment, minimize blood loss, and ensure that this animal was able to breathe without aspirating fluid. Dr. Boylan administered pain medications and sedatives prior to surgically stabilizing the jaws using cerclage wire, a time-consuming procedure which successfully reconfigured this poor little turtle’s beak. Once this ridley was placed on the ventilator for the night, we began work on our third patient of the evening at nearly 1 A.M. Monday morning.
Thankfully, our last patient was a relatively healthy ridley that had been caught by a fisherman on hook-and-line in the Seabrook area. Transported by renowned SC turtle ladies Barb Bergwerf and Mary Pringle, this 6-pound turtle rested quietly in a bin for several hours while Dr. Boylan finished the jaw surgery on our first ridley. At 1 A.M., we sedated our hook-and-line patient and, despite the obstacles presented by having to remove a circle hook with the line cut, Dr. Boylan quickly extracted the hook.
With all three turtles stabilized for the night, our vet and two biologists groggily exchanged words of congratulations over the marathon session of sea turtle rehab and headed home at 1:30 A.M.
The rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles for release would not be possible without our amazingly supportive team of SCA volunteers, nesting beach volunteers, and people like you in local communities who care about helping these threatened and endangered animals. Thank you to everyone who was involved in the rescue and initial treatment of these three turtles, and to those of you who have made small changes in your daily lives to reduce the chance of sea turtle injuries and strandings. Go team!