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Monday, October 23, 2017

Tragic Bulls Island Stranding

NMB STP Volunteer went to Bulls Island, Cape Romain with her daughter, hoping to find shells and experince this unique barrier island.  And what and experience on the island she had!!!.....Per Cynthia

"I had heard that the shelling on Bulls Island was great, so I made reservations to take the ferry over the the island for my daughter, Chelsea Shoop's, birthday. We starting walking the beach and found lots of sand dollars, but heard that we could find some larger shells near the Boneyard on the northern part of the island. As we ventured into that area, Chelsea yelled over to me from behind a fallen tree. When I got to where she was standing, I could see she was upset. There was a stranded sea turtle trapped between fallen trees and debris. I could tell she had been there a while because her back flippers were mostly buried in the sand. We knew the tide was coming in and was beginning to reach her, so we called the ferry operator to see if we could get some help to move her. The biologist from the ferry arrived about 10 minutes later. While we waited, I decided to try and give to  call NMB STP since I knew we weren't far from the Sea Turtle Hospital in Charleston and you could give me some advice on how to proceed.   (NMB STP Patrol called SC DNR Stranding Hot line, gave contact information, Michelle from DNR immediately called Cynthia and then set off for Bulls Island.)

The biologist (I can't remember his name!) helped us move the turtle into a shady area further up the beach. He said he had put in a call for help, but had to head back to the ferry. We started pouring sea water over her to help keep her hydrated to the extent we could. It was very hot and who knew how long she had been stranded. I could see she had an injury to her head and lots of barnacles on her shell. She started to respond when the water touched her fins. 

A while later, Hannah Pierce, a sea turtle volunteer on the island, came running down to see us. She said she and another volunteer, Jim, hadn't seen a crawl on their morning check, so the turtle had been there a while. She checked her out and felt, as we did, that it wasn't a case where she could be put back in the water...she needed help. Hannah had driven as far down the beach as she could on her ATV, but the trees and incoming tide wouldn't allow her to come closer. She didn't have access to a tarp or anything else help carry her, and, with the tide coming in further and further, my daughter remembered a towel that I had in my bag. We decided it was the only way to move her safely, so we got her on the towel somehow...if it had been any smaller and she any larger, it wouldn't have worked.

We all decided leaving her was not an option! So Hannah and Chelsea started carrying her down the beach, navigating the many sharp tree limbs and trees littering the beach. Sometimes the three of us would carry her. We went as far as we could, rested for a minute, hydrated Ruby, and then staked out our next path before starting again.We estimated it was about 3/4 of a mile to the ATV, but we made it, somehow!, and lifted Ruby onto the back and headed in to the dock area. 

We were immediately greeting by representatives from the DNR and some volunteers who helped get her onto a waiting boat. Off they went to the Sea Turtle Hospital. It was an experience we will never forget!

I have volunteered with North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol for five years and, although I have never been fortunate enough to find a nest, have fallen in love with sea turtles and with protecting our beaches and these gentle creatures. My daughters have gotten up before dawn and walked my segment with me occasionally when they visited and are used to hearing me go on and on about sea turtles, lol. So when Chelsea saw this turtle in distress, there was no question that we would do whatever we could to save her. I know that these rescue stories don't always have happy endings and we are praying she is able to be saved. But we would do it again in a heartbeat to give her a chance.

I have visited the Sea Turtle hospital myself and know the amazing work they do in rehabilitating injured sea turtles. I know Ruby is in good hands and everything that can be done for her will be done. I was amazed at how quickly people responded to our call for help and did what they could to get her help as quickly as possible. I would love to be there as she is released back into the ocean, if that is to be, and to thank everyone again who helped us give her another chance."

Here are a few more photos we were able to get, including one of us with Hannah. These two girls are both so tiny...and they did most of the work!! 

Per Sea Turtle Hospital   "A 44 kg loggerhead was delivered by Michelle of SCDNR this afternoon.  The animal was caught on the shore trapped in tree roots.  PE was completely normal except for a healed wound to the top of the skull.  Severe hyperglycemia (341) and mild hyponatremia and hypochloremia. No lactates (love that I-stat).    OD cataract, OS hard to be sure.  No attempts to resist handling or move.  Animal just sat there for all the examination and therapeutics.  No emaciation.  Looks like we have a turtle that was hit on the head with a blunt strike. "    Later CT revealed Bloat had evidence of a the neurocranium being previously fractured on each side."Named Bloat or Ruby, turtle had to later be euthanized.  

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