Patients Piling Up: Four sea turtles admitted to CROW within last few weeks
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is currently treating four sea turtles – of three different species – that were admitted in the last month after being found floating on the water’s surface.
On Feb. 27, a subadult female loggerhead turtle was found off of the Sanibel Causeway, while a juvenile green sea turtle was discovered at Stump Pass near Manasota Key. Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Breanna Frankel reported that the green sea turtle is still too small to determine its sex.
On March 18, a subadult-juvenile female loggerhead was rescued at Bowman’s Beach. In the most recent case, an adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found near the Sanibel Marina on March 27.
All were floating on the surface of the water, which is unnatural for sea turtles.
Frankel explained that they only really surface for air, even sleeping on the ocean floor.
“They had Bubble Butt Syndrome,” she said.
Bubble Butt Syndrome is an accumulation of air in the turtle’s body cavity or gastrointestinal tract, which results in its butt sticking up in the air. Left untreated, a turtle can die from the condition.
“It prevents them from being able to submerge,” Frankel said. “They can’t hunt, they can’t eat.”
Bubble Butt can also inhibit them from clearing their GI tract and expelling waste.
She noted that it is a symptom associated with red tide poisoning in sea turtles.
“It does cause GI issues and the Bubble Butt that we see,” Frankel said.
Upon being admitted, each turtle required 24 hours of being “dry docked,” which entails being wrapped in damp towels and monitored, while examinations, blood work and such is done.
None showed recent injuries, which was unusual.
“A lot of times they come in from boat strikes,” she said.
The subadult loggerhead was floating because of its debilitated state, not a buoyancy issue.
“We thought she was skinny,” Frankel said. “She was kind of quiet.”
Tests revealed she had loggerhead anemia syndrome. An aggressive fluid plan was started for her, along with injections of iron and B12 every few days.
“Her blood work was awful,” she said.
The tests also detected brevetoxins, which is indicative of exposure to red tide.
“She had pretty high levels of that,” Frankel said.
An old boat strike injury was observed at the rear of the green sea turtle’s shell. Its Bubble Butt may be the result of air trapped due to the strike, when the wound healed over or from trauma to its lungs.
“It can use its back flippers, but it really doesn’t try to,” she said.
In a procedure, air was tapped from the turtle’s body cavity to try and correct the condition.
A CT scan later revealed that the turtle’s spine had been severed, likely in the strike.
Frankel explained that staff is monitoring the turtle to determine its level of quality of life, more specifically if it can control its nerves to rid its body of waste. If it can, the turtle can go to a forever home or become a CROW Animal Ambassador. If not, it would have to be humanely euthanized.
The subadult-juvenile loggerhead is being treated for Bubble Butt and possible red tide poisoning. Upon examination, she also sustained an old injury – half of her left front flipper is amputated.
“She swims fine with it, so it is not a concern,” she said.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the most recent patient, has an old wound as well.
“The turtle is missing part of its left front flipper as the result of an old traumatic injury, which has completely healed,” Brian Bohlman, a spokesman for CROW, said.
Blood samples were taken to be tested for brevetoxin levels.
“It is suspected to have brevetoxicosis based on its clinical signs,” he said.
Following a 24-hour dry dock, each turtle is moved to freshwater for 24 hours, then transferred to brackish water, where the salinity level is slowly increased by adding salt – regular pool salt.
Frankel noted that they were going through 75 bags of salt a week with just three turtles.
“It’s a lot of care,” she said.
All are fed crabs or squid stuffed with fish, greens and vitamins to keep their nutrition up.
“They’re all on different medications,” Frankel added.
Because the rehabilitation time for sea turtles in so lengthy – it can take weeks and even months – CROW is seeking donations of crabs. Any type of bait crabs that can be purchased at bait stores.
Whitneys Bait & Tackle has already provided some ghost crabs.
For more information, call 239-472-3644.
CROW is at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.