Post Hatchling Sea Turtle Release

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

This post-hatchling sea turtle was released from CROW after 24 days in care. SCCF helped coordinate its release. Photo provided

Green sea turtles are most recognizable by the top of their shell (carapace). In sea turtles, the shell covers most all of the body except for the flippers and head. Despite their name, they are not always green. They were named the ‘green sea turtle’ in reference to the color of their body fat and not their shell! The shell can be a blend of many colors and often appears in a starburst pattern. The shell can be brown, olive, gray, or even black and their underside is typically yellowish-white.

Sea turtles’ flippers help them move quickly through the water. They can reach a size of three to four feet in length and upwards of 350 pounds! As adults, they are strictly herbivorous relying on seagrass and other aquatic vegetation like algae. As juveniles and hatchlings, they are more opportunistic in their diet and will consume squid, fish, worms, and other small invertebrates in addition to aquatic vegetation.

Green sea turtles can be found all around the world in subtropical ocean waters and nesting occurs in over 80 countries. In the United States, green sea turtles are most commonly seen near the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the east coast of Florida. Once a green sea turtle hatches, it heads right to the ocean and rarely returns to land. After hatching and heading into the water, hatchlings have about 72 hours worth of energy from the nutrients they have absorbed from their egg sac. Though little is known, this is usually enough energy to get them dozens of miles offshore and into areas where sargassum (seaweed) beds are found. Newly hatched sea turtles are susceptible to predators, exposure, and losing their way. Hatchlings will swim out to these seaweed beds which provide both nutrition and shelter. For green sea turtles who reach the water, it can take 20 to 50 years for them to reach sexual maturity and they have the potential to live for 80 to 100 years!

On November 7, a post hatchling green sea turtle (#21-5664) was admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife after being found washed up in Boca Grande. Post hatchling refers to the size classification given to hatchlings when they reach a length of five centimeters. Many of these turtles come in during storms or times of rough surf and are unable to swim out past the break after being washed back to shore. These turtles are referred to as post hatchling “washbacks”. Hospital staff estimated its age to be approximately three to four months old. Upon admission, veterinarians noted a deep laceration on the right front flipper, swelling, and a decreased use of the flipper. The hatchling was placed under supportive care in the rehabilitative reptile room. It was given nutritious foods, antibiotics, and received regular veterinary checks. After 24 days in care, the turtle was cleared for release and our hospital staff contacted our partners at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) to help coordinate the release. To ensure a successful release, SCCF team Eric Milbrandt, Kelly Sloan, and Jack Brzoza boated the post hatchling and Wildlife Rehabilitator, Lilli Pedersen, about 30 miles offshore in the Norma Campbell Research Vessel. Since hatchlings usually dwell amongst sargassum (seaweed) beds, the turtle needed to be transported out into the area where these seaweed beds are typically found. Once we reached an appropriate distance, the post hatchling was successfully released back to the wild!

THIS WEEK AT CROW (11/26-12/3):
There were 109 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 12 brown pelicans, 17 eastern cottontails, 11 double-crested cormorant, ten laughing gulls, nine raccoons, four royal terns, four Virginia opossums, two bald eagles, and two white pelicans. Recent Releases include a Virginia opossum, an osprey, a green sea turtle, a striped mud turtle, a mourning dove, and an eastern cottontail. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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