By Mary Pringle for The Island Eye News
“Rent a Boat/Save a Turtle” – this is what Adrian Honeycutt of Phoenix, AZ said after the experience her family had on Capers Island on June 20. She and her husband and children were visiting here with relatives on Daniel Island and Summerville and rented a boat at the Isle of Palms Marina. They were exploring the south end of Capers Island with their children Hannah, Harper and Harrison Honeycutt when they came across a live loggerhead turtle lying on the beach at low tide.
This was a small young loggerhead, only 64.8 lbs with a 27-inch shell, but it was in danger of dying from heat and dehydration because it was too weak to crawl back to the water after stranding itself on the beach. Adult loggerheads can weigh 300-400 lbs. Adrian was able to locate the number for the SC Department of Resources to find out what they should do. The emergency number is 1.800.522.5431. Fortunately DNR called the Island Turtle Team authorized transporters to meet the Honeycutts at the Marina to take the turtle to the Sea Turtle Care Center at the SC Aquarium.
This young loggerhead had a load of large and small barnacles and blood in its mouth. Barnacles sometimes are an indication that a turtle has been stationary and not swimming or moving around much, sometimes an indicator of lethargy or a chronic condition of poor health.
Part of the left front flipper was missing and there appeared to be an old healed wound on that flipper from entanglement possibly with a crab trap rope. At this life stage it is impossible to determine the sex of a loggerhead without an endoscopic exam or a DNA blood test. On arrival at the Aquarium the turtle was examined, given fluids for rehydration and had blood drawn by Dr. Shane Boylan, the Aquarium’s veterinarian, who said that this turtle was emaciated. The blood test showed a low protein level from not having eaten recently. After doing an eye exam, he also said that he suspected neurological problems, possibly because of trauma from a head injury.
Since they are currently naming turtles admitted for Harry Potter characters, this one was called Hedwig (for the Snowy Owl). When it was put into a tank of water after the admission exam, it swam well. After a week in care Willow Melamet, Manager of the Sea Turtle Care Center said, “Hedwig is eating and defecating. He (or she) continues to improve, is still on antibiotics but is active and alert. Hedwig is expected to make a full recovery.”