By Karen Sota
Snooki's Big Day
Every year right after Labor Day Dr. Harms brings his residents and fourth-year vet students to our hospital for some hands-on work with our patients. It’s something his students look forward to, maybe not so much our turtles. But in the end, many of them get to go home so a few days of having every scute and scale and flipper and sometimes their “interior” examined is worth the price. When Snooki’s turn came it took a village to make it happen, with the “villagers” moving into her home because there was no way she was going to vacate her tank.
“Snooki’s Big Day” started with a little trip to dreamland where hopefully she would doze through the next few hours. First up, the weigh-in. You can’t train a sea turtle to just step on the scale, so you must bring the scale to the turtle and then somehow get the turtle to cooperate. It was no small accomplishment getting that zaftig body where it needed to be. In the end she clocked in at three-hundred-ten pounds. Then things got really interesting, again at least for the students and our volunteers. Snooki was about to become a blood donor. It’s not the first time Dr. Harms has asked one of our healthy patients to give a little blood for his turtle blood bank. Snooki’s blood could be the difference between life or death for a sea turtle in need of a transfusion. As she slumbered on she was given a complete physical and then had a little cosmetic surgery.
If Snooki were living in the ocean she’d be snacking on a lot of crustaceans, corals and stuff that would break our teeth if we tried eating it. Her large mouth is made for crunching, in fact when she arrived from New Jersey she had packed her own lunch, a big box of whelks. At our hospital she’s developed a preference for one of the softest things we have, squid, which we stuff with fish in the hope that she gets some protein. As a result her beak can get raggedy and grow a bit larger than is optimal. Out came the bite block, flashlight and a Dremel. Snooki now has a beautiful smile, in addition to her beautiful personality. And Dr. Harms pronounced her healthy.
We still have a few nests that have not hatched so please keep an eye out for wayward hatchlings or turtles in any kind of distress. If you find a hatchling on the beach carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with some sand and a small amount of water - barely cover the flippers. Then call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available, you may 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. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick, and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. Please note that all our work with sea turtles, at the hospital and on the beach, is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 21ST05.
Fall tours continue! Through October we are open four days a week, Wednesdays through Saturdays from Noon – 4 PM. The admission process remains the same; you must schedule and purchase your tickets in advance for a specific day and time through our website reservations page. And we require masks be worn inside the building for everyone five years of age and over – no exceptions. We still have patients that are looking forward to your visit before we close for the winter. Maybe Snooki will even show off her new smile for you.