The Turtle Hospital. Rescue, Rehab, Release.

Shelmore’s Suprise

After 32 years of being The Turtle Hospital, there’s not a lot that we haven’t seen before. While each patient is different, the injuries we typically see tend to be repetitive. So it’s always interesting when something unique pops up. Which is what happened with Shelmore…

On Tuesday 9/18 we received a call from Tavernier about a sea turtle floating and acting weird.  Coast Guard Islamorada helped us out and were able to catch the turtle.

At first we thought, it’s just a normal impacted loggerhead. That is, until we took x-rays. Then the strangeness started.

Shelmore’s x-ray with “eel” outlined

Shelmore had what looked like an eel inside. In fact, a large eel. We thought it was impossible that this was an actual eel, but we were excited to see what it was. Dr. Brooke Burkhalter started with an ultrasound to get a better idea of where the foreign object was located.

Unfortunately nothing could be seen, so she opted to look inside laparoscopically with an endoscope. But again, not much could be seen. With our spirits deflating, we were starting to think that it wasn’t an eel afterall. It was looking to be a massive infection, with an abscess. The decision was made to go in surgically to clean out the abscess to allow the turtle to heal. Imagine our surprise when Dr. Brooke cut into the “abscess” and found a head!

It appears to be a Goldspotted snake eel, Myrichthys ocellatus.  A marine eel found in the Western Atlantic Ocean and native to the Caribbean. They typically live near coral reefs and feed on crabs. We’re not completely sure how Shelmore ended up with the eel inside him, but we think that he might have accidentally eaten the eel and then the eel didn’t like that and bit through the intestines, ending up in the turtle’s body cavity. Where it was then encapsulated and what we thought was the abscess.

While the eel is no longer in Shelmore, he still has a long road to recovery. Due to the “foreign object” inside Shelmore’s body cavity, and unknown how long it was there, Shelmore has a ragin body cavity infection. But no matter what, he is definitely feeling better now! Check back in to see his progress.





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