The turtle that stranded was an 80-pound loggerhead (still a juvenile) whose shell was covered in barnacles and hundreds of tube worms whose homes made of mud, were caked inches thick on the shell. Unlike most debilitated sea turtles that arrive at our facility, this one was actually moving around quite a bit. In addition to checking overall body condition and respirations, blood was taken for an in-house snapshot of the animal's health and to ship off for complete blood counts and chemistries. That in house blood analysis told us that "Scute", the new loggerhead, is very anemic and has a very low blood protein. The good news is that it actually has a decent blood glucose level which is why the turtle was more active than most in this state.
You can see the degree of emaciation by the outline of bones and tendons in the neck area. The "sore" on top of the skull is from a rope that was entangled around the turtle's neck when it was found in the surf. This entanglement may be the root cause of the turtles poor condition. Supportive care was given to include fluid therapy with Vitamin B, an iron injection to combat anemia, IV hetastarch fluids to help the protein levels in the blood, and of course, antibiotic injections. Since it was 10:30pm when we finished treatment and we could not monitor the turtle overnight, Dr. Boylan and I decided to leave her in a very shallow pool of freshwater. This would allow her to breathe without having to swim to the surface.
Although Scute is extremely sick, we are hopeful that she will improve with continued supportive care. Keep up with Scute's progress (as well as the other patients in the Sea Turtle Hospital) on the main hospital webpage.
Thank you to all involved in the rescue of Scute and for Arturo from SCDNR for the long hours on the road to get her safely to our hospital. It takes all of us to save the lives of these animals!
P.S. For those of you who aren't aware of our naming system, we name the patients after where they strand whether it is a beach or waterway. Currently we are treating a Myrtle and a North Myrtle. To avoid giving the same names to turtles, we look for other names that have something to do with the area in which the turtle strands. SCUTE stands for South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts and is comprised of sea turtle volunteers from Georgetown to North Myrtle Beach. This stranding got the name Scute so we wouldn't have to name it North Myrtle Jr as well as to honor all of the SCUTE volunteers that support sea turtle conservation and the Sea Turtle Rescue Program.