Injured turtle is recovering, will be released


A 2-foot-long sea turtle appears to be healing nicely at the National Aquarium in Baltimore after being struck by a houseboat near Ocean City.

Aquarium specialists were preparing to truck the turtle to Assateague State Park today and, after tagging it, to set it free.

The 70-pound juvenile loggerhead turtle was struck Saturday. Bleeding and dazed, he was picked up in the Isle of Wight Bay by other boaters who saw the accident. They turned the reptile over to the Ocean City Coast Guard station.

"He had a laceration diagonally across the top of his head and down across the front of his face, almost to his bill," said animal-care specialist Cheryl Messinger. "It's not very deep at all, but it was reported that he was bleeding very heavily."

The Coast Guard notified the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which alerted the National Aquarium. Messinger and Cindy Driscoll, of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, drove to Ocean City in an aquarium truck to pick up the turtle.

By the time they arrived, Messinger said, the turtle already had received some first aid.

"They had applied direct pressure to the top of his head and the bleeding had stopped," she said. "We did cleanse the wound prior to leaving. . . . We cleaned off the clotted blood and made sure the wound had some medication in it."

With the turtle in a foam-lined plastic pool, Messinger and Driscoll drove back to Baltimore early Sunday morning, arriving at 4 a.m.

Since then, the turtle has been resting in a pair of plastic wading pools once used by stranded seal pups. Handlers continued to cleanse its wounds with antiseptics.

X-rays taken Sunday showed that the turtle suffered no skull fractures in the accident, Messinger said. A subsequent exam by aquarium veterinarian Brent Whittaker confirmed that it was healing well.

Blood tests completed today showed that the turtle was free of infection, so Messinger said "the best thing will be to release him back into the wild, where he can feed himself and be in a less stressful situation."

Debra E. Keinath, a laboratory specialist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, said loggerheads are listed as a threatened species.

Adult loggerheads stay at sea. But juveniles migrate into the safety of Chesapeake Bay and coastal inlets in June, where they feed on horseshoe crabs, grasses and fish. When the water cools in the fall, they head south.

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