By Karen Sota
After only a few short months in rehab our first group of cold-stuns, aka the “Twelve Days of Christmas Plus One” have been reduced to the “Five Days of Christmas.” Eight little Kemp’s were settled securely into tubs and hit the road for the US Coast Guard Station at Fort Macon where they had tickets for a ride to turtle-comfy waters. Joining them on the trip were turtles rehabbed at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and a few from New England that were flown in that day for the release. And what an enjoyable day for our volunteers who transported the critters – they were invited along on the trip – but thankfully were not released along with the turtles!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch we still have thirty patients in various stages of recovery. One of them, “Kaia” was admitted in November of 2020. Cruising around Surf City Pier probably looking for an easy lunch she didn’t think about what might be hidden in that tasty squid and found herself hooked. Still a juvenile, at just over 13 kg. she had been managing quite well on her own.
Normally hooked turtles recover and are sent home relatively quickly. But Kaia has not been that lucky. She has osteomyelitis in both front flippers in her shoulder areas severely restricting her range of motion. This infection in the bone is something we see with cold-stunned turtles, but that’s not why Kaia was admitted. It is possible that she had been a cold-stunned at some point – after all she is a Kemp’s, and they are notorious for delaying their trip south as the waters cool - just ask the New England Aquarium.
There are medications that can treat Kaia’s condition. We’ve used them successfully in the past, and she’s been receiving them per Dr. Harms’ instructions. But we know meds can have side effects and in this case it has severely affected Kaia’s appetite. She just does not want to eat, so now anorexia has been added to her list of medical issues. It doesn’t matter what we offer her, or how much time we spend coaxing her, she’s just not interested. She’s managed to maintain her weight but only with an aggressive regime of IV fluids and vitamins. And now the poor girl has air in her ears.
But there is some positive news. She now logs in for a daily swim in our therapy pool where our turtles can stretch out, work against the jets and start building back their strength. Kaia is using her front flippers to zip around! And hopefully more exercise will make her hungry enough to eat again. Although she won’t be going home anytime soon things are looking up for this lady.
Limited tour schedule begins in March. We’ve been busy over the past few months not only caring for our patients but making some exciting changes in other areas. Our gift shop has been totally renovated, and when we open to the public in a few weeks the entire area will once again be available for browsing and shopping. And by popular request you will again be able to visit just the gift shop area during tour hours. Lots of new items have been added to our standard favorites, and of course our online gift shop and adoption center stays open 24/7 so you can order our exclusive hospital
merchandise and adopt your favorite turtle(s). Check back soon to purchase tickets for tours beginning in March. Looking forward to welcoming you all back to our hospital.
Cold stun season continues. Although cold-stun admits appear to be slowing a bit that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of these frosty critters. At this point we’re getting the really debilitated turtles coming through our doors. And this year it’s been some very sick loggerheads. Please be our extra eyes for spotting for any turtle in distress. Don’t assume a turtle is beyond help because it can’t move. They are stunned motionless. If you spot anything unusual 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.