By Karen Sota
We enjoy all aspects of our work at our hospital. We’re intimately involved with every turtle that comes through our building, whether they’re with a us a few days or several years. But the best part of our work is the day we get to send them home. On an overcast, humid morning three of our fully rehabilitated patients got their second chance at a long and happy turtle life.
Kemp’s ridley “Turtledove” stranded in November of 2021 as one of the colds stuns that frequently get caught off-guard when the waters in New England take a dramatic dip in temperature. Turtledove arrived at our facility along with the other “Twelve Days of Christmas” (named for the second day in that Christmas classic), anemic and weighing barely two pounds. With her healthy appetite and TLC she bulked up to an amazing ten pounds by the time we paraded her in front of a cheering crowd of a thousand turtle fans who lined the beach. Once she was set down she literally put all four flippers in gear and with a little more speed might have managed to get airborne by the time she reached the surf. We have never seen a sea turtle move that fast on land.
Two juvenile loggerheads, both from local waters were on deck waiting not so patiently for their trip down to the shore on our turtle taxi. “Pammie” was rescued 9/28 of last year in Swansboro, suffering from a boat strike. From the start it was obvious that she was a real people turtle. You couldn’t walk past her without her head popping up with a big smile on her face. We realized, of course that she was just hoping that we had food, and with a weight gain of twenty-five pounds during her time with us it appears it was more than just hope. Pammie was carried into the surf where she rocketed away.
Finally it was “Sahara Desert’s” turn. A relative short-timer she was picked up on Topsail by our staff on 6/20 after we received a call that she had ingested a fishhook. If a turtle is lunching on bait we’ve learned that it’s a good idea to check by radiograph to make sure there are not multiple hooks that we don’t know about. Sahara was transported to CMAST in Morehead City for evaluation where the veterinary team removed a hook from her esophagus. She returned to us, appetite intact and on the short-list for release. She was a beauty, and the crowd was very excited to get a few pics when we asked her to slow walk the last few yards to the waves.
Back at the ranch we still have quite a few turtles who are waiting for Dr. Harms’ next visit and those all-important release papers. That’s coming up shortly when he brings arrives with his fourth-year students for an intensive two weeks in all things sea turtle. Mid October will be your last chance to visit us before we close for crucial maintenance and re-configuration In our Sea Turtle Bay area. Check our website for more information.
The turtle mamas are off the clock at the end of August and now the focus in on those babies that have been incubating in the sand over the summer. We can’t tell you where or when a nest will hatch. Honest. Those little critters come out when they’re good and ready and we don’t get advance notice. It’s a matter of luck to be there for a boil. If you miss the hatch you might be able to catch a nest analysis which is done three days after the hatch. Volunteers excavate and analyze the contents which just might include a late rising hatchling or two that missed the alarm. If you spot a nesting mama, see hatchlings emerging or see anything unusual such as an injured or stranded turtle 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 send a trained volunteer to meet you to assess the situation. 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.
Tours during September through mid-October will be Thursday – Saturday from 11 AM – 2 PM. After that we will close through November for facility maintenance. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance through the Visit page on our website. 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 safer as we still contend with Covid. Sorry, but we are not able to accommodate walk-ups for tours once we sell out for the day. Please note that if our surrounding counties experience an increase in Covid cases we may require masks for everyone over the age of three, no exceptions. Check the website for current masking requirements when buying your tickets. Construction traffic on Charlie Medlin Drive can sometimes result in delays in getting to our hospital so please plan accordingly. Our gift shop is open to the public during tour hours.