Sea Turtle Released after Recovering from Face Injuries

provided to Santiva Chronicle

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) released a juvenile green sea turtle on Wednesday, Feb. 19, following more than three months of recovery from a fractured skull and other injuries to its face.

The turtle first arrived at the wildlife hospital in critical condition on Nov. 4, 2019 after being rescued from the Boca Grande pass by staff at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). CROW veterinarians assessed the turtle and found it to have multiple severe fractures on either side of its face/skull and a fractured plastron, or undershell. The fractures appeared to have been caused by some type of blunt trauma.

In the days following admission, the team of veterinarians and staff worked to control infections in the injured areas with localized and broad spectrum antibiotics. Despite the severe injuries, the turtle maintained a healthy body weight and was alert and responsive.

“Given the extent of the head injuries, it was surprising that this turtle was even alive and responsive,” says Dr. Robin Bast, the staff veterinarian at CROW. “We knew it was going to be an uphill battle from the beginning.”

Bloodwork, radiographs and a CT scan helped show the extent of the damage and determine the turtle’s treatment plan. It underwent multiple surgeries to remove infected and dead tissue along with continued antibiotic treatments and pain medication. Over time, the infections became resistant to the antibiotics being used and required more detailed testing to find medications that would be successful in fighting the bacterial infections.

As the injuries began to heal and the infections cleared, the turtle began further rehabilitation. The injuries to its face limited the use of its jaw which affected its ability to eat. “We weren’t sure if this turtle was ever going to regain function in its jaw and be able to eat on its own,” says Bast, “So, it was a huge stepping stone in its journey to being able to be released.” Over a few weeks, rehabilitation staff helped the turtle learn to eat on its own again.

After more than three months of medical care and rehabilitation, the turtle was finally cleared for release. The turtle was tagged with flipper tags and a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag prior to being released Wednesday morning. The turtle was taken by boat and released a few miles off the beach at South Seas Resort on Captiva Island.

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 www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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