Common Snapping Turtle #17-2211

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Dr. Ernesto, Dr. Alexa, and veterinary technician Jenna performed Snapping Turtle 17-2211’s plastronectomy on the afternoon of September 6. The surgery lasted roughly four hours, but the team was unable to remove the hook.

Dr. Ernesto’s initial approach to remove the hook in the stomach was unsuccessful, due to the location of the hook. The hook’s barbs are well-embedded in the wall of the stomach near the esophagus. Access to the hook’s location in the stomach was blocked by the turtle’s heart. Dr. Ernesto tried a different approach, coming in from a lower portion of the plastron. Still the hook was inaccessible.

Though it’s not ideal, the hook was left in place and the turtle’s surgical site was closed. The plastron “window” was sealed with bone cement and covered to prevent infection.

Because of how the hook is stuck in the stomach, Drs. Ernesto and Alexa do not think the hook will move; if the hook could move freely, there would be concern about it perforating the stomach and causing sepsis. If the hook is made from stainless steel, it’s possible that zinc could leach into the turtle’s bloodstream, possibly leading to toxicity. Deterioration of the hook would likely be slow, however, and the hook’s material is unknown.

The veterinary team will perform bloodwork monthly to check for signs of toxicity, and they will take radiographs periodically to check on the hook. There is also risk of infection at the surgical site, so close monitoring of the plastron wound is necessary. Though the veterinary team does not anticipate issues with the turtle eating, they will monitor the turtle once it is fed to make sure the hooks isn’t affecting food passing into the stomach.

Snapping Turtle #17-2211 will spend the winter at the Center.

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