Green Sea Turtle Gets Ride Home After Recovery

Green Sea Turtle Gets Ride Home After Recovery

SCDNR sea turtle technician Emma Schultz prepares to release Gill the green sea turtle in the Stono River. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR) 

SCDNR sea turtle technician Emma Schultz prepares to release Gill the green sea turtle in the Stono River. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR) 

Several months after a thin and barnacle-covered sea turtle washed ashore at North Myrtle Beach, he/she finally returned to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean today.

“Gill” was found in the early morning hours of April 4, 2017 by Horry County sanitation staff working on the beach. They contacted SCDNR’s sea turtle stranding network, which sends trained staff and volunteers to respond to sick, injured, and dead sea turtles across the coast of South Carolina. When she arrived, volunteer Linda Mataya assessed the small green’s condition – he/she was lethargic, thin, and had a shell caked in mud and algae – and opted to transport the sea turtle to a medical facility for treatment.

Gill's shell was covered in mud, algae, and barnacles when the juvenile green sea turtle washed ashore sick in North Myrtle Beach.

Gill's shell was covered in mud, algae, and barnacles when the juvenile green sea turtle washed ashore sick in North Myrtle Beach.

For the next four months, staff and volunteers at the South Carolina Aquarium took excellent care nursing the young green sea turtle back to good health. At admission, Gill was severely dehydrated, had a low blood sugar level, and had sand in his/her eyes. About a week into Gill’s hospital stay, Sea Turtle Care Center manager Willow Melamet said the turtle passed a 4.5-inch piece of latex balloon – an unfortunately common trash item on our beaches and in our waterways, which sea turtles can mistake for food items.

Throughout the summer, Gill continued to recover and put on weight until Aquarium doctors finally cleared the turtle for release in early August.

This morning, on the way to a sea turtle nest patrol on Sandy Point, SCDNR sea turtle biologists boated out to a calm area just north of Kiawah Island. SC Aquarium staff brought Gill in a small container in order to release the six-pound turtle into a sheltered stretch of water.

Gill was released in the Stono River along the edge of a salt marsh, the favored habitat of juvenile green sea turtles in South Carolina. There he/she should be less exposed to boat traffic and have access to plenty of vegetation to eat.

Good luck out there, Gill!

Emma Schultz lowers Gill into the water along the edge of a salt marsh north of Kiawah Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Emma Schultz lowers Gill into the water along the edge of a salt marsh north of Kiawah Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Gill's head pops up above water as the sea turtle orients him/herself in the Stono River after release. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Gill's head pops up above water as the sea turtle orients him/herself in the Stono River after release. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Watch Gill's return to the water in this video produced by the South Carolina Aquarium.

Follow-Up Note on Sea Turtle Season

Sea turtle nesting season is coming to a close in South Carolina, and it looks like we’ll have another successful year to celebrate. While short of last year’s record-breaking figures, nesting numbers are on par with those seen in 2013 and 2015. Reports of sick, injured, and dead sea turtles this year have been above average, and we are incredibly grateful to our volunteers and partners for stepping up to the task of handling such high numbers.

“Right now strandings are at 181 turtles,” said SCDNR wildlife biologist Jenna Cormany. “Boat strikes are still our number one cause of strandings this year, followed by hook and line entanglements and disease.”

Two months of sea turtle hatching remain in the 2017 season, so remember these tips when you’re out on the beach:

— Keep your Lights Out for Loggerheads! Turn beachfront lights off and ditch flash photography and flashlights to avoid disorienting hatchlings.
— Keep our beaches clean and free of trash and holes.
— Admire these incredible creatures from a distance.
— Report any violations to SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431.

Save the Date for a Fun, Free Coastal Event

Save the Date for a Fun, Free Coastal Event

Life's Better Outdoors: Exploring Otter Island

Life's Better Outdoors: Exploring Otter Island