by Karen Sota
Spring is officially here, and it’s something even sea turtles seem to recognize. In a few short weeks nesting season officially begins and there have already been sightings of loggerheads heading toward our coastal beaches. But along with all the “coming” we have a very important “going.”
Canal, a juvenile green who has been with us for almost seven years is relocating a few hours away to his forever home. Canal has been such a fixture in our hospital that most of you probably thought he was going to live with us forever. But our mission is to give every turtle the best possible life after rehabilitation. If we can’t send them back to Mother Ocean, we owe it to them to find an environment where they can live out the rest of their lives safely and well cared for. Finally – we’ve done it for Canal.
But first, a little background on Canal. He was originally admitted October 15, 2015 with a boat strike injury to the backend of his carapace. It’s a fairly common injury with many admits and in most cases it’s just time to heal and then back home. But every once in awhile it results in a buoyancy problem where a turtle cannot dive and stay submerged, just popping back up to the surface usually butt-up.
Although initially Canal seemed to be doing fine, over time we noticed that he was struggling to stay down and was devoting increased time paddling around the top of his tank. But there was also a long period where he spent extended periods scooting along the bottom of the therapy pool. Release was looking increasingly like an option. After extensive discussions with Dr. Harms, Jean and our hospital staff we decided that we should give Canal a chance to go home. On June 13, 2018 Canal was released from the beach in front of a large, cheering crowd.
On June 14th he re-stranded in Surf City, close to where he left us in what we hoped would be his second chance to put the “sea” back in sea turtle. It appears that he just didn’t have the stamina to fight the waves and make it out to deeper water. Or maybe he just missed us. Thankfully, he was unharmed and although we were disappointed we welcomed him back. Recognizing that release was not in his future the search for a new home began. His photo and CV were sent to aquariums who had what we considered suitable accommodations for one of favorite patients, but between hurricanes and Covid things just didn’t work out. Until now.
In the very near future Canal will be relocating to SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord where they’re putting the finishing touches on his very own room with a 5,000-gallon tank, including three windows for underwater viewing. If you’re a “people turtle” like Canal this is the perfect marriage between a great sea turtle life and the opportunity to bask in the admiration of the many, many fans he’s collected over the years. Of course there are plans in the works to send Canal off in style – stay tuned for details.
During April our hospital is open to the public for tours three days a week: 11 AM – 1 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and Noon – 2 PM on Sundays. Tickets must be purchased in advance through our website: www.seaturtlehospital.org. Select the date, time and the number of guests in your party and purchase your tickets. We limit the number of guests for each time to make the experience more enjoyable and to continue our commitment to keep you and our staff safe as we work our way through Covid. Please check the website for our current policy on masks which is based on transmission rates in our part of the state. And remember that you can come to the gift shop without going on the tour. Enter through the single door to the left of the main entrance.
Even though we’re still on alert for late arriving cold stuns it won’t be too much longer until those turtle mamas start heading toward shore. On Topsail our official start to nesting season is May 1st. If you spot anything unusual such as a stranding or nesting, please 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 we will meet you to retrieve the turtle that will then be brought 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 22ST05.