We love every turtle that comes to us for care and hopefully a second chance. But right now a sizable adult loggerhead lady has stolen our hearts.
“Titanite” was rescued from a research pound net on July 15th and it was immediately apparent that she had been the victim of a brutal shark attack, and a fairly recent one at that. She was missing a portion of her right front flipper, had large bite marks in her neck and it looked like she had lost one of her “toes.” Her carapace was bitten through, but luckily it was near the edge and the bite did not penetrate the coelomic wall where the organs are located. And her eye looked like it had a possible laceration. She was a tragic sight.
After being settled in a shallow tank in Sick Bay Titanite began what looked to be a long period of recovery with intensive and frequent hands-on care by our staff. Obviously she was in pain, especially around her neck, and would give us the side-eye when we approached that area. She was kept as comfortable as possible with pain medication and her wounds were treated with a variety of topical and injectable meds to prevent infection and facilitate healing.
Titanite was not able to go on to our recirculating water system in Turtle Bay until she had gone through quarantine, so for her first six weeks her water had to be changed up to five times a day. She received treatment for three of those water changes, including flushing with saline and betadine, a honey soak on the wounds and application of SSD. And we still had a problem where her flipper was bitten off – there was a portion of the bone sticking out that needed to be surgically addressed – but not until she was stabilized.
Thankfully she was a good eater, and thankfully not a picky one like our Kemp’s tend to be. She was happy with whole mackerel until apparently word had gotten to her that if there was something about the breakfast preparation not to her liking we would be happy to accommodate her. She started biting off the heads and spitting them out on the bottom of her tank. Now her 3,000 grams of mackerel arrives sans heads. It doesn’t take long for them to train us.
Several weeks ago, Dr. Harms and his class of 4th year vet students arrived and Titanite was scheduled for her surgery. The protruding bone was carefully trimmed back and the wound was stitched and then bandaged with a compression bandage to minimize bleeding. Her other wounds were debrided and were showing signs of healthy tissue repair. She was placed back in her tank and back on meds for pain and infection. It wasn’t long before she was swimming around probably wondering what that thing was on her flipper. She was eating and back to her new normal of hands-on treatments the next day. Her progress has been astounding.
Titanite has relocated to Sea Turtle Bay in a large tank with recirculating water to facilitate her healing and minimize handling by our staff. And our water guru, Tina has installed a “waterfall” that she can rest under for a quick nap or carapace massage. Titanite is currently being treated once a day and still insisting on headless mackeral. You can see her from a distance from our observation ramp when you come to visit us.
We’ve now on our fall tour days and hours, and we still have patients waiting for your visit. There are major renovations scheduled for late fall, so be sure to buy your tickets soon before we close. Our hospital matriarch “Snooki” is eagerly anticipating the arrival and installation of her new fifteen-foot tank, complete with a window!
Please keep an eye out for any sea turtle activity on the beaches or in the water. As the nests continue to hatch it’s possible you’ll find a hatchling that’s gone astray. Carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with some sand and a very small amount of water - barely cover the flippers. It’s important that the little critter does not bake in the sun, or sit exposed to the elements/predators when we get these unexpected night temperature drops into the 50’s. Then call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. Calls to her number after hours will automatically be forwarded to her for action. You may also call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. We will take the information and one of our area coordinators will meet you to retrieve the hatchling and refer it to us for follow-up. Terry is also the contact for any sick, injured or pier-hooked turtle. The State of NC turtle hotline for strandings picks up 24/7 at 252-241-7367. Remember that interfering with or harassing federally protected sea turtles in any way makes you subject to steep fines and possible imprisonment. Our work with sea turtles, at the hospital and on the beach, is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05.
We are fortunate once again to have 8 students from UNC-Wilmington with us for the next few months. Let's meet them:
Hello my name is Kailynn and I am a senior at UNCW majoring in biology with a minor in assistance in dog training. I am from Apex, North Carolina and moved down here for college. I absolutely love all animals and wanted to learn more information and hands on experience with marine life! I am currently working as a vet assistant, and I am hoping to go to vet school!
Athena - I am a junior at UNCW majoring in Biology and minoring in Marine Biology. I am from a small town called Jefferson, North Carolina. Which is close to the beautiful New River and Blue Ridge Parkway, growing up surrounded by nature and wildlife. This summer I worked at the New River State Park as a park attendant. I hope to find another summer job either in a state park again or at a national park but to be on the coast or on Saint John, USVI. I have a deep love for protecting wildlife and our environment. Although this internship isn’t related to my career goals, I am so happy to be doing this type of work as my personal passion. After having experienced this amazing opportunity, I hope to continue volunteering to help sea turtles. "
Hailee - I am from the Outer Banks, NC. I am currently a junior at UNCW with a Biology major, concentrating in Pre-Veterinary Medicine with a minor in Assistance Dog Training. Coming from a beach town, I am very familiar with the ocean and its marine life. As such, working as an intern for KBSTRRC felt like the perfect fit for me! I have always loved sea turtles, and working with them now is such a privilege. This experience will be especially helpful in determining what kind of veterinarian I want to become.
Jena - I am currently a senior at UNCW and am from Hillsborough, New Jersey. I will be graduating this spring with a BS in marine biology with a concentration in conservation. I have always wanted to work in rescue and rehabilitation and am so grateful to have this experience at KBSTRRC! I can’t wait to learn more about the care and conservation of sea turtles through this internship and hope I continue to do so in my future career.
Phoebe - I am from Jacksonville, NC and I am a senior at UNCW. I am majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. I was excited to learn about this opportunity and I am so grateful to be chosen as one of the interns this semester. As an aspiring veterinarian, I look forward to being able to work with the sea turtles so I can diversify my experience and help the animals as well.
Matt - I am from Cary NC, and currently a senior at UNCW for a degree in marine biology. I have always been around the water and it's exciting to be turning that hobby into a possible career. KBSTRRC is such an awesome opportunity to be hands on with the turtles and I am learning so much. Sea turtles are such amazing animals and I feel very lucky to be a part of this great crew!
Kira - "I am from Asheville, North Carolina and I am a second semester junior at UNCW. I am a marine biology major with a conservation concentration. My plan is to continue with school after completing my undergrad and getting both my master's degree and PHD in marine biology. I would like to use my schooling and this internship to obtain a job that allows to me to work with these animals in my career and making the ocean a safer place for them. I am so happy to be an intern at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and getting to work with these beautiful creatures to help spread awareness."
Kayleen - I’m from Jacksonville, NC and currently I am majoring in Marine Biology with a concentration in Marine Conservation. Throughout my life I have always been traveling and gaining new experiences. While living in Nicaragua I was able to help a rehabilitation center release sea turtle hatchlings and this experience was a major influence in pursuing my degree. I graduate this semester and plan on continuing to gain experience within marine conservation so hopefully one day I can work with a facility just like this one. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to be an intern here since I will be able to have hands on experience with endangered species and share the importance of conserving them to the public.
We’re open for tours! After several months devoted to caring for cold-stuns plus the patients over wintering with us we’re happy to be able to welcome visitors again. During the month of March we’ll be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 AM – 2 PM. You will still need to purchase tour tickets in advance through our website www.seaturtlehospital.org. but you can visit the gift shop during those hours without taking the tour. We’ve spent the winter sourcing an incredible array of new items, along with the favorites in the latest colors. And of course, our adoption desk is always open when we are. With every March adoption you will receive a free copy of our inaugural hospital calendar featuring our very photogenic patients.
The really exciting news for our visitors is that Snooki is once again in the big house, Sea Turtle Bay! After several months vacationing in the therapy pool in Sick Bay while we completed our Turtle Bay renovations and her tank was out for restoration she’s back. Since she’s been with us her time has been spent toward the back of the big house where it was almost impossible to see just how enormous and beautiful she is. Snooki now has a position of honor right up front next to the railing.
Moving a turtle that weighs almost three-hundred fifty pounds was quite a process and took the entire team. Luckily, she likes and trusts “her people” and tried to cooperate as much as she could. She’s not real keen on being restrained in any way but after circling round and round to check out her bright yellow “Snooki Sling” she finally relented and let us guide her into position. Once snugly wrapped it took a village to lift her out of the therapy pool and settle her onto our turtle taxi for a ride. This zaftig lady never moved an inch as she rolled down the hall and into position in front of her tank, where she was hoisted to the edge on a board and unwrapped. It didn’t take her long to slip into her old home, enjoying the extra room and sparkling water. Just a word of warning to our visitors: Snooki likes to splash and fling water (lots of it!) with her ginormous flippers, usually to attract attention. Or maybe it’s just her way of showing love. You decide.
Although cold-stun season is coming to an end please continue to keep an eye out for possible victims. If you see a turtle that has washed up on the beach or in our marshy areas or is in the water floating motionlessly don’t assume it is dead. They literally can’t move, maybe not even
blink. Whether the turtle is big or small immediately call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available, call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329- 0222. If the turtle is below the high tide line and in danger of washing out move it above the high tide line if you can do so safely. Ideally you should remain with the turtle until our trained volunteers arrive to retrieve it. If that is not possible find a way to indicate the location of the turtle on the beach by drawing large arrows in the sand or placing beach debris nearby. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. All conservation work for endangered sea turtles at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05.
We have once again welcomed 10 interns from UNC-Wilmington. They will spend their Saturdays learning about turtle care and husbandry as well as practicing their communication skills by teaching the public about sea turtles.
Let's meet our interns:
Angelica: St. Peterburg, FL Marine Biology Major (Senior) I have spent 16 years in the military and decided it was time to go back to school and get a degree in something I am passionate about. The ocean and animals have always been that for me so a degree in Marine Biology was perfect. I became a volunteer at the KBSTRRC over a year ago and fell in love with caring for the Sea Turtles. I realized it's something I wanted to pursue in my future so doing an internship working hands on with the turtles just made sense.
Bryce: I’m currently a senior at UNCW studying biology with minors in chemistry and environmental sciences. I’m from Poolesville Maryland and I’m grateful for this experience working with the KBSTRRC. Sea turtles are my favorite animal and since I was a little kid, I knew that I was going to be involved one day. This internship has allowed me to work hands on with the turtles along with an awesome team that I sincerely cherish.
Ben: My hometown is Calabash, NC. and I am a junior at UNC Wilmington, majoring in Biology and minoring in Neuroscience. Every summer my family would visit Sunset Beach, NC, and that first sparked my interest in turtles as they nested on the island. I am very excited to be interning at KBSTRRC this spring and assisting in the sea turtle conservation effort!
Lauren: I am from Ellicott City, Maryland! I am currently a junior at UNCW and I am a marine biology major. I'm so excited to be an intern here this semester and expand my knowledge of marine animal care. I hope my experience with this internship helps guide me in my decision of post-grad plans and my future career aspirations!
Eric: Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I was fortunate enough to have a family boat in the Chesapeake Bay where we spent as many weekends as possible cruising around and enjoying the water and all the wonderful forms of marine life found in the world’s largest estuary. It was during that time that I developed a deep affection for the ocean and aquatic life of all kinds, which ultimately led to me coming to UNC Wilmington to study marine biology. In my time here I was fortunate enough to watch a sea turtle nest hatch, as well as getting a tour of the turtle hospital. Something in me stirred after these events… I knew that I wanted to give back to the ocean in some way, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center seemed like the perfect way to give back to such beautiful animals in their times of need.
Ian: I'm from Charlotte, NC and currently majoring in Biology at UNCW. I enjoy spending my time outside rock climbing, slack lining, or scuba diving. I grew up in a house filled with a variety of animals which sparked my scientific curiosity. After watching KBSTRRC releases I fell in love and decided to become an intern to be a part of their conservation efforts!
Emma: I am from Cary, NC. I'm currently a junior at UNCW majoring in oceanography and minoring in marine biology and dance. I hope to work with sea turtles in my career and so this internship offers exciting, hands-on experience. I have absolutely loved the internship thus far and am excited for the rest of the semester!
Hai: I am from Tay Ninh, Viet Nam. I'm currently a junior at UNCW for Marine Biology major and thinking of minor in digital photography. I plan to further study specifically about turtles and the deep sea after graduation since they are the reason why I am here in a different country, in this major and in this hospital. My dream job would be working on a crew that explore the Antarctic. I am happy to be here this semester. It is like a big check mark on my journey!
Jenessa: I am from Hickory, North Carolina, and I’m currently a senior at UNCW. I am a marine biology major and a French minor. I would love to go to vet school in the future, but plan to work for at least a year before I apply to gain more diverse experience! I hope to continue working as a kennel tech and hopefully do more work as a vet assistant this coming year. I’m so grateful to be an intern with KBSTRRC this semester to add to my experience and work with wildlife!
Raful: I am from Clayton, North Carolina, and I am currently a junior at UNCW. I am a marine biology major with a concentration in conservation. I plan on continuing to find and gain experience in this scientific field after I graduate, and hopefully work at a conservation and rehabilitation facility just like this one! I absolutely love sea turtles and am super grateful to be an intern here this semester to help spread awareness for these endangered and beautiful animals!
There’s a famous Pete Seeger 1955 song titled “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” that was covered by many folk groups in the 60’s. Today a re-write of that song might be “Where Does All the Plastic Go?” At our hospital we see first-hand where some of it ends up.
Right before Thanksgiving we got a call that a turtle had stranded in North Topsail Beach. This little green was admitted with a body temperature of 63 degrees, so we suspected cold-stunning was the most likely the reason she ended up on the beach. She wasn’t loaded with barnacles or algae like most of the cold-stuns but she looked like she was wearing a necklace. It’s not the kind of accessory we like to see on any turtle because it usually means there was some interaction with fishing line or a net. We named this little cutie “Fuzzy Wuzzy” and she was given the standard course of meds, including treatment for anemia, and settled into a tank.
Since she was in relatively good condition upon admittance we thought she might be a short timer. But she seemed to be having a buoyancy issue, especially in deeper water. Very often this is a temporary condition and will resolve as we keep the turtle in lower water levels so they remain horizontal, not listing or head or butt up. But Fuzzy Wuzzy had a surprise in store for us. Along with her normal digestive waste we were netting numerous pieces of plastic – for weeks!
These were probably what most of us would consider “micro plastics” but if they were moving thorough your gut they probably wouldn’t feel so micro. All kinds of colors, sizes and shapes, and all with sharp edges. In the end this little six pound critter managed to pass a total of 14.5 grams of plastic, the equivalent of three typical credit cards. Ouch. The good news is that on January 3rd she caught a boat ride with a bunch of her friends to warmer waters, with a stern reminder from us to look for a different restaurant.
Patients that have eaten plastic (and all kinds of trash) is not a one-off occurrence for us. It’s out there everywhere, and if the ocean is your home and that’s the only place you can get your food you’re in trouble. Years ago, comedian George Carlin, noting that plastic is not fully degradable, said that the planet would eventually shake us off like fleas and create a new paradigm “Earth Plus Plastic.” He was not trying to be funny.
We’re hoping that the cold weather is coming to an end and we’ll probably be seeing fewer cold-stuns. We continue to rely on our locals and visitors to keep any eye out for victims of cold snaps. If you see a turtle that has washed up on the beach or in our marshy areas or is in the water floating motionlessly don’t assume it is dead. They literally can’t move, maybe not even blink. Whether the turtle is big or small immediately call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available, call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. If the turtle is below the high tide line and in danger of washing out move it above the high tide line if you can do so safely. Ideally you should remain with the turtle until our trained volunteers arrive to retrieve it. If that is not possible find a way to indicate the location of the turtle on the beach by drawing large arrows in the sand or placing beach debris nearby. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. All conservation work for endangered sea turtles at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05.
We’re getting ready to open on a limited tour schedule beginning in March. Tours will be on Friday and Saturday from 11AM – 2 PM. You will still need to purchase tickets in advance through our website www.seaturtlehospital.org. Our gift shop is loaded with tons of new turtle merchandise and you’ll be able to adopt one of our patients for those hard to buy for relatives and friends. Fan favorites Snooki and Lennie are looking forward to having visitors again after months seeing only our faces so be sure to check us out before the seasonal crowds.