This turtle is alive!
For the second time that we know of in the seventeen years we’ve been working with sea turtles, someone found a stranded hard-shelled sea turtle along a Nova Scotia shore before it died. Now we’re trying our best to help it survive.
On Sunday, as they do every day, the employees of the Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound scanned the coastline near them to make sure it was clear of debris. They collect any garbage or broken crates they see to prevent them from washing back into the ocean.
“I saw a blue box out on the rocks, and asked Les Roy to go and get it,” explained Hope Shanks, who has worked at the Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound for nineteen years. “He came back with this turtle.”
Hope called our good friend Dr. Sherman Bleakney, who lives in Wolfville. Sherman was the first scientist to propose that leatherbacks might be regular visitors to Canadian waters back in 1965. He called our toll-free turtle line, his voice packed with characteristic enthusiasm.
“How are you?” I asked him.
“I’m great as you’d expect on a day where there’s a live sea turtle in Hall’s Harbour,” was his reply.
The turtle is a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. It is, as you know, the second Kemp’s we’ve found recently. It’s the first one we’ve ever found alive. It’s also only the thirteenth Kemp’s ridley turtle on record in the history of Atlantic Canada. And, while we’re discussing statistics, it’s worth noting that it’s the fourth hard-shelled sea turtle we’ve worked with in the last ten days and the second found in Hall’s Harbour.
“These turtles may be more common in Canadian waters than we thought,” says Canadian sea turtle biologist Dr. Mike James. Mike captured and released a Kemp’s of this size while he was doing research offshore this summer.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtles in the world. This turtle is a juvenile, which means that it is too young for us to be able to determine its sex by looking at it. But the crew at the Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound named the turtle “Eric,” so we’re sticking with that. Eric is cold stunned. This means he found himself suddenly in water that was too cold for him to manage.
At the moment, Eric is safely tucked into a blue tote under the care of Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark, a veterinarian who is one of the founding members of the CSTN.
“This turtle is severely hypothermic and emaciated,” Chris said. He pointed to the muscles in Eric’s neck, which were clearly visible under the skin, as opposed to buried in a healthy layer of fat. “These are both difficult conditions to deal with.”
Chris had a warning tone in his voice. The it’s-a-long-road-from-here tone. The just-be-prepared tone. The watch-your-heart tone.
Because of course, although Eric is critically ill, he’s already beloved by all of us.
And maybe by you, too.
Chris Harvey-Clark kindly shared this video of Eric’s initial vet visit: