Ever heard the saying, “If you love something, set it free”? It turns out that this tried-but-true advice may apply to life in a way you never thought it would: what to do with struggling sea turtle hatchlings.

This week at LMC, we welcomed two new patients into our facility. The two tiny turtles were brought to our center after being kept in a home aquarium for what hospital staff estimates to be around a year. LMC Vet Technician Samantha Clark says that the turtles were probably from a late hatch and that based on their current states of health, they were probably kept in an environment that was insufficient in terms of factors such as water temperature and nutrition provided. When sea turtles are kept in water that is too cold, are not provided with the correct nutrition, or are held in otherwise unsuitable conditions, Clark says, the results could be dire: the turtles could see stunted growth, like the two that just arrived here, and they could also be prone to bone deformities, other general health issues (e.g., poor organ health), and even death.

Thankfully, there are easy steps you can take to avoid harming hatchlings. The most important thing to glean from this story is that taking sea turtle hatchlings into your own care is not an option. Not only is it extremely dangerous for the turtles, but it is a federal criminal offense since sea turtles are federally protected. So, what do you do if you find a sea turtle hatchling on the beach?

Know that hatchlings are supposed to find their own way home to the ocean.

When hatchlings first emerge from their eggs, they typically don’t require help to get down to the water, so let them be. While it may look tough, the journey from shore to sea is an important part of the beginning stage of a hatchling’s life.

If you do find a hatchling stranded on the beach, bring it directly to LMC.

While many hatchlings make the journey into the water themselves, there is a possibility that some will be prevented from making it there due to special circumstances like injuries or the intervention of human factors like garbage in which sea turtles can get caught up. If you find one of these lingerers, you should bring it right to Loggerhead, where there is a drop-off cooler out front just for this purpose. Once they are brought here, the hospital staff can take care of them properly until they are healthy enough to be released.

When all is said and done, maybe the truth is that that old saying isn’t quite perfect. Our suggestion for a change? “If you love something, set it free… Or bring it to LMC.”

Written by Marketing Intern Hanna Rubin