“She had a lot of sand in her lungs,” Zirkelbach said Wednesday. “It may be a dog attack.”
Good Hope was found at Good Hope Beach, St. Croix, on Aug. 24, just as Tropical Storm Isaac blew through. The turtle was laden with eggs.
It’s not the first turtle on St. Croix to be attacked by dogs, said William Coles, chief of environmental education at the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Coles said another turtle was discovered on the beach near Palms at Pelican Cove.
“The lungs were packed full of sand,” he said.
The fate of those turtles that make it out to see after being attacked by dogs remains unknown, but Coles said it’s likely they also died because their lungs probably filled with sand.
Coles said he hopes that a method to diagnose when turtle lungs are filled with sand can be determined.
As for Good Hope, deep wounds to her flippers were obvious, and Zirkelbach said it initially appeared like she had been gaffed by fishermen. After a week’s worth of treatment on St. Croix, American Airlines flew the turtle as baggage to Miami. The Turtle Hospital staff picked her up and began treatment of what looked like gaff wounds to her flippers as well as a blood infection.
Zirkelbach said she was responding well.
“But there was something deep-seated in her lungs,” she said.
Good Hope’s passing came as a surprise to hospital staff, who found her dead just before she was scheduled for surgery to repair her swollen and torn eyelids that left her blind.
Prior to Tuesday’s necropsy, the remainder of Good Hope’s eggs were harvested. The 58 harvested joined those she laid that were deemed viable for a total of 119 incubating eggs. However, Zirkelbach said, it’s too soon to know if all the eggs will hatch.
“But that’s 119 reasons for hope,” she said.
She said any hatchlings will be returned to Good Hope Beach.