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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Briar.......Chapter 2

In May 2013, I transported a very sick loggerhead sea turtle from a section of the beach just south of the Briarcliffe/Meher Baba Beach to the SC Sea Turtle Hospital in Charleston.  The 125 pound turtle was very sick, very emaciated.  After several months in the Hospital, the turtle was found to be suffering from cataracts in both eyes.  Briar also had a deformed, left front flipper, either a birth defect or she had broken the bone at some point and it had healed crooked.  Briar was the first sea turtle to undergo cataract surgery and did so well, she was released a couple of months after the surgery, in late July 2014.  At this time, Briar weighed over 180 pounds.  Briar was well know by both the staff and visitors to the hospital, very gentle, very social, a very sweet face.

May 2013

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, NMB Dispatch calls the STP Hot Line,  a fisherman just reported a large loggerhead stranded on the sand bar formed during the low tide, at the Cherry Grove Point, just before Hogs Inlet.  Quick check, sure enough a large loggerhead is stranded in a shallow tide pool.  A good size turtle, well over 150 pounds, she is alive and alert but not moving. 

June 2016

 Quick check reveals a boat strike on her upper carapace.  How to get her off the sand bar, off the beach and into my car for transport to the hospital becomes the major question.  I called NMB Dispatch and asked if a Beach Patrol Officer could help us.  Beach Patrol Officer Frank Smith, a great friend of the Sea Turtle Patrol soon arrived and drove out through the tide pools and channels to where the turtle was.  Time became an issue, incoming tide was quickly over taking the sand bar and filling in the tide pools.  

The once shallow tide pool was becoming deeper and deeper....Officer Smith, the Fisherman and STP Volunteer Beth along with a couple of others, lifted the turtle into the back of the Patrol Truck and the turtle was soon in the back of my car and headed to Charleston.  

Once in my car, Briar was very active.  She crawled out of the front of the swimming pool I use, smashing the side down like it was paper, she completely filled the pool anyway.  I was getting concerned that she might try to climb into the front seat.  But she soon relaxed, propping her massive head up on the backpack that I keep my stranding supplies in and seemed to fall asleep.  

When I arrived at the hospital, Kelly and her staff were waiting outside for me.  The turtle was quickly lifted out of the car and onto the rolling cart and taken to the triage area.

 On the way in, Whitney, who has worked for several years in the hospital and is now working very closely with Dr. Boylan,  remarked on the turtle's sweet gentle face and how much she resembled Briar.  Everyone stopped, turned quickly and started looking closely at the turtle.  I showed them the two metal tags, one in each flipper and as soon as they saw her deformed flipper, they declared it was Briar.

 A quick check on the tags numbers as well as the pit tag in her neck, YES, it is Briar.  She stranded less than 15 miles north of her first stranding in 2013.  When released from the Hospital in 2014, she had been released on the Isle of Palm Beach, near Charleston.   Homing Instinct???

Excitement soon buzzed all around the room.  Briar was the first patient to return to the hospital.  Briar is well known, her cataract surgery was a first, she is featured on a segment of Sea Turtle Rescue. a wonderful TV show on Saturdays and Sunday, locally on the ABC Channel.

Today was a day of first:
First time a sea turtle was returned to the Hospital after being release
First time I and the hospital saw metal tags and a pit tag in a stranded 
First time I took the same turtle to the hospital two different times
Briar was the first turtle to have cataract surgery

Briar seems to be in good shape.  She has grown and is now considered an adult female.  Her weight has dropped to 160 pounds, but still seems in good physical shape.  She did have many barnacles on her carapace and other hitchhikers such as shrimp and crabs.  She does have a crushing injury on her upper carapace, a boat strike but not the cutting damage from a propeller.  This is an older injury and may be the reason for her slowing down, allowing the barnacles to grow,

X-rays taken to see if lungs have been damaged

Or she maybe in the early stages of starvation due to sickness or from eating plastics and other undesirable items.  X-rays were taken, her blood work seemed good.....right now it is a waiting game.  An ultrasound will be performed in the next couple of days to see if she has any eggs or egg follicles.  I stayed long enough to see her placed in a large tank, she took off, swimming around and around, like she remembered the time she was there before, maybe relieved that she is safe once again.


WPDE News was in town for other stories and soon arrived at the hospital.  The Charleston Post and Courier got wind and did a story that night.    

Now is a great time to visit the hospital......I will post updates as I receive them.

Thank you Beth for your help this morning.  And a huge thanks to NMB Beach Patrol Officer Frank Smith.  A big thanks to the fisherman who interrupted his fishing to investigate that bump in the tide pool and then cared enough to call for help!!!


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