Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 7/29/2021
Weight: 38 kg (88 lbs)
Sunstone was hooked by a fisher on Myrtle Beach. When the fisher pulled Sunstone onto the beach, he was hooked in the left front flipper, which had already sustained a severe injury, causing the majority of the flipper to be missing. The fisher promptly contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and SCDNR permit holders Linda Mataya and Chris Lee responded to the stranding. Chris Lee then transported this patient to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for evaluation and treatment.
At admit, Sunstone was very active and feisty and appeared to be in relatively good body condition. The injury to the left front flipper was pretty severe; there was some exposed bone present and the injury appeared to be fresh. Once in the exam room, admitting staff obtained a weight, took x-rays to access the injury to the flipper and made sure Sunstone had not swallowed a secondary hook. There was only one hook located in the injured front flipper, and no other hooks were present. Given the appearance of the missing left front flipper and the presence of rake marks on the tissue, and also underneath the bottom of the right front flipper, this injury was likely caused by a shark bite. The tissue around the injury was shredded, and there was no active bleeding at admit. However, it was not an old injury and had probably happened a few days prior to being hooked. The hook was easily removed, blood was pulled and the injury was flushed and treated with topical antibiotic ointments. Sunstone was started on a course of antibiotics to help prevent any potential infection caused as a result of the shark bite. She also received fluids and vitamins. Lastly, she was left to rest comfortably in a padded foam bin with a small amount of water until a tank was ready for her.
August 15, 2021: Sunstone was pretty quiet her first couple of days settling into her temporary home. Some of the injured tissue in the left front flipper is becoming necrotic and coming away from the wound, so there is more exposed bone present than there was at admit. As the injury to her left front flipper heals, it’s going to look worse before it gets better. We have her in a tank with ozone to keep the water disinfected, to help mitigate bacterial growth in the tank and aid in wound healing. We have also started cold laser therapy on the injured flipper while she is out for her antibiotic injections. Cold laser therapy helps to reduce inflammation, increase blood circulation to the affected area and speed up the overall healing process. She has started eating on her own and is now on a weighted diet. Depending on how the wound heals, we may have to do some debridement to remove any dead bone or tissue down the road, but for now her treatment plan is working out well.
September 15, 2021: Turns out, we had to do very little work on Sunstone’s flipper wound! After we finished the laser therapy and antibiotics, we pretty much left the flipper alone to finish healing on its own. Sunstone is in a tank that has ozone built into it, which means the water is incredibly clean on a molecular level. The ozone, paired with frequent water changes, really helps keep the water and wound clean and clear of infectious disease exposure or bacteria growth. The flipper looks great these days, and Sunstone is on the mend. She gets around her tank easily and has no issues maneuvering, even though she is missing almost an entire front flipper.
October 15, 2021: Sunstone continues to improve, and her flipper gets better-looking every day. Staff recently pulled her from her tank for an exam and everything was healing accordingly. She is gaining weight and maintaining good body condition and health. Because of the severity of the wound, we will likely keep Sunstone in rehabilitation through the winter. Keep checking back to get monthly updates on Sunstone’s progress.
November 15, 2021: Sunstone was pulled for another weight, measurement and exam last week. Sunstone has put on about 4.5. pounds since their last weight check, bringing them up to 95 pounds. Dr. Lauren examined the shark bite wound on the left, front flipper, and it continues to heal up very well but still needs more time before it is fully healed. Overall, Sunstone is looking great!
January 15, 2022: Sunstone has been smooth sailing this past month. Sunstone’s flipper continues to heal beautifully. The exposed area of bone is covered over with keratin and there is no fibrin or necrosed (dead) tissue present. Sunstone is eating over a pound and a half of food every day — this is about 2% of their overall body weight. This is a normal amount of food to feed a turtle of Sunstone’s size as we do not want the patient to grow too quickly while in rehab. Sunstone is gaining weight at a normal rate, and we will pull them again sometime in February to assess their body condition and healing progress.
February 15, 2022: Sunstone has been a model patient in the Sea Turtle Care Center; they eat all of their food and defecate on a daily basis, which is something we love to see. They have seemingly come to enjoy fish pops! On Valentine’s Day, Sunstone received a heart-shaped fish pop. At first, they were hesitant, but once they realized it was a fish, just frozen, they practically inhaled it. Staff is continuing with monthly exams to monitor their healing process but overall, Sunstone has healed beautifully.
March 15, 2022: Sunstone continues to be a model rehab patient. They eat everything and poop daily (or multiple times a day). Sunstone certainly keeps us and our volunteers busy with netting out their tank! Staff pulled Sunstone from their tank this month again for a regular maintenance exam. Sunstone’s flipper has healed beautifully, and we are very excited that they should be able to be released later this spring or early summer!
April 15, 2022: Not very much has changed for Sunstone since our last update in March. As rehabbers, that is usually a good thing! Since Sunstone’s missing flipper is nearly healed, they are getting closer to release evaluation. We’ve been giving Sunstone many fish pops to keep them busy and make feeding time a little more interesting for them.
May 15, 2022: Sunstone was offered a blue crab as enrichment and instead of eating it, they befriended the crab. A few days later, their friendship came to an end when Sunstone decided they were hungry. Earlier this week, Sunstone received an exam, bloodwork and was tagged! Once we receive the bloodwork results, we will evaluate whether or not they are ready for release.
May 25, 2022: Sunstone was released at Folly Beach County Park this morning! The sun was shinning bright as they crawled back home into the ocean. Good luck out there, Sunstone!