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Young Turtle Found Shot

Beaker was a young Hawksbill sea turtle found in Cowpet Bay. He had washed up on shore and was unresponsive. Concerned residents called the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue Network (STAR). Erica Palmer, Coral World Ocean Park Veterinary Technician and STAR St Thomas responder came to the turtle’s rescue. He had a puncture wound to the second left costal scute. Erica took Beaker to a local veterinarian to be examined.

It was found that there were bubbles coming out of the hole, which indicates it’s a punctured lung. He also had an exit wound in the shoulder pocket underneath his shell. He was shot from above and behind. The shot went in through the second costal and out through the shoulder pocket. Beaker had an x-ray initially, which didn’t show any foreign bodies inside the wound. It is really important to do x-rays before CTs or MRIs, because they are magnets and if there are any metal pieces the CT would pull it out of the turtle. The CT showed a lung puncture that went through and through and also a clavicle fracture. When the spear went through Beaker, it actually broke the clavicle in several spots, blowing it apart. It was a fairly intense experience for the turtle, unfortunately, and a fairly high-powered spear gun too.

Beaker was then taken to Coral World while he was rehabilitating. The wound had to be cleaned at least 2 to 3 times a day at first. He couldn’t swim very well, and had to be put in dry dock for the first two weeks. He couldn’t be in the water with the injury to his flipper, as he couldn’t propel himself and he would sink. We also didn’t want water getting into the lung that could give him pneumonia. The wound was cleaned constantly, he was also on antibiotics, fluid therapy, and he was assist fed. Turtles won’t eat on their own if they are not in the water. So he had to be assist fed every day. After 3 weeks, the wound had closed up and was healing really well. But he wasn’t able to use his left flipper. We weren’t sure if he was ever going to be able to use it due to the clavicle fracture.

When he was in the water, he swam in circles. He didn’t have good diving ability without being about to use his left flipper. He had physical therapy 4 to 6 times a day, which consisted of moving the flipper around. He had to get used to the feel of moving his flipper again. He finally started using it on his own. Then he was able to start diving and at that point he started eating on his own.

It took Beaker about 7 months to fully regain strength and mobility in his flipper. Once he was swimming around and eating really well, we took him back to Cowpet and released him on the sand. Beaker went right back into the water.