by Karen Sota
Tuesday June 14th was homecoming, or more accurately, home-going for ten rehabilitated sea turtles: one loggerhead, two Kemp’s and seven greens. Nine of these critters were victims of cold stunning, Kemp’s “Magic Potion” being the exception. His decision to choose a quick snack on a baited hook landed him in our hospital for a month.
This was our first public release for the year and sea turtles can certainly draw a crowd. Despite the forecast for extreme heat and humidity, it looked like nearly one-thousand people managed to make their way to the beach and hang in there until the last turtle powered through the surf.
The smaller turtles were brought down to the shoreline in their transport tubs and then carried by our volunteers slowly up and down the exceptionally long lines seeming to enjoy the oohs and ahhs of their adoring fans and striking poses for photo ops. We’ve learned over the years that some of them are just hams when they see a camera. “Sea Glass” one of the larger juvenile greens got a ride strapped down on our special “turtle taxi” because she’s, well, kinda crazy. Our larger turtle taxi hauled loggerhead “Burnt Sienna” who tipped the scales close to one-hundred-twenty pounds down to the surf. Once they hit the water only a sandbar close to shore slowed them down, for just a few seconds. They were gone with barely a wave of and flipper for a final goodbye.
Even though ten turtles have left the building there are still patients who are waiting for you to visit, including permanent resident and hospital ambassador “Lennie” and crowd favorite Jersey girl “Snooki.” Our senior interns are giving our regular staff a bit of a break for summer and are very enthusiastic about their twelve weeks with us. You’ll be meeting most of them during your visit and we “regulars” always hope our guests can come up with a question or two that makes them do some research or must ask one of us old-timers for help in answering. We’ve added another hour to our tour to accommodate the overwhelming request for tickets. As of now we will be open from Noon – 4 PM though July.
Nesting season on the island is in full swing with (number to come) nests at this writing. There’s no way to predict when or where a mama turtle will come ashore so if you happen to be here when she does consider yourself incredibly lucky. Please respect mom and the exhausting process by maintaining your distance and not using flashlights or flash photography to distract her. If you spot a nesting mama, or 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.
Again, through June and July we will be open seven days a week: Mon – Fri, Noon-4; Saturday,102, and Sunday Noon-2. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance through the reservations 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 to continue our commitment to keep you and our staff safe as we continue to respond to any changes in Covid. At this point masks are not required. Sorry, but we are not able to accommodate walk-ups for tours once we sell out for the day. Please keep in mind that summer traffic can be very heavy, especially on the weekends so plan your arrival accordingly. If you are coming only to our gift shop (not for a tour) you can enter through the single door to the left of the main entrance.