By Karen Sota
Looks like January has finally decided to give us January weather and the cold-stunned turtles that come along with it. We continue to admit new patients and that means moving them through a series of hospital locations as they progress on their rehab journey. By the time a cold-stun reaches their “just waiting for a ride” tank in Sea Turtle Bay they’ve seen quite a bit of scenery.
Relocating turtles for the most part is easy when they’re the smaller greens and Kemp’s. You just pick them up and introduce them to their upgraded, larger accommodations. You don’t just walk over and pick up a two-hundred-pound loggerhead. There’s a process.
Recently admitted loggerhead “Sepia” needed a much larger tank and there just happened to be a vacant eight-foot one next to “Snooki.” Our staff prepped Sepia with a nice soapy bath and barnacle removal along with her extensive meds which include a topical slather of honey for a still-healing boat impact wound. Then the transport team rolled over her ride; a hospital gurney that’s, let’s say “vintage.” It truly looks like it was on the set of a 1960’s TV medical show like Dr. Kildare or Ben Casey but it’s perfect for the task.
Sepia seemed quite aware that something was about to happen and that she was playing a starring role as the group gathered at her tank to finalize their plan as to who was standing where, grabbing what and lifting when. With a compromised carapace from her injury it was imperative that she be handled in a very specific way to avoid further damage. With the plan in place Sepia was carefully muscled onto the gurney for her short ride down the hall.
Next step was to get her safely off the gurney and into her new tank, which has very high sides. And she didn’t lose any weight on the trip. Sometimes the down is worse than the up because a turtle, by now, can be a bit agitated and anxious and those big flippers are menacing. Luckily for the staff Sepia seemed pretty chill about the move and was cooperating beautifully. As her tank filled with water you could almost see a smile appear on her face. She had room to stretch out those big old flippers and just cruise around. Snooki, who doesn’t miss a thing that happens in Sea Turtle Bay did her best to peek over her tank to meet her new neighbor. Maybe she’ll have some advice for her once the humans leave for the day.
THE HOSPITAL IS CLOSED FOR TOURS. We are closed for public tours until spring of 2022. With cold stuns arriving weekly our staff is working very long days, coming in and leaving in the dark. But 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) with a visit to our website: www.seaturtlehospital.org. Your support through gift shop purchases and adoptions goes directly to the care of our patients. And thanks to our supporters for a spectacular 2021! And wait until you see what we have planned for our gift shop in 2022 – stay tuned.
Cold stun season continues. Please be our extra eyes for spotting for any turtle in distress. The smaller ones are especially vulnerable as they have less fat to protect them and not a lot of experience with cold snaps but even the large loggerheads can be victims. 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.