By Karen Sota
With cooler weather and a major renovation project in Sea Turtle Bay rapidly approaching we needed to get our flippers in gear to make sure every patient cleared for take-off made it to the beach ASAP. On October 12th with a glorious Carolina blue sky and a friendly ocean we bid a fond farewell to our last graduates for 2022.
Three juvenile greens, Belle, Magenta and Jazzberry Jam were the first to crest the walkover and stroll the runway (with a little help from our staff) for a final photo ops and royal waves of their flippers to the large crowd of fans lining the beach. Belle had an especially long recovery, having been admitted in early 2020 as a very sick little girl. She subsequently developed osteoarthritis which takes years to resolve even with the best care and medication. But she made it. She leaves behind her often-times “tank mate” Rosemary who will miss her dearly. Well, maybe not. Belle did have a habit of stealing Rosie’s veggies at every opportunity. Magenta and Jazzberry Jam, both local rescues from the Cape Lookout area were also released. Magenta was cold- stunned and anemic but tripled her admission weight in the space of six months. Jazzy had a run in with a shark that left her with a very large wound on her neck. It was touch and go, or for a while ”don’t touch” as the wound was pretty gnarly. But with a lot of specialized care, including honey treatments she made a complete recovery.
Two Kemp’s, Maddie and Black Pearl were next to meet the crowd. Black Pearl, also from the Cape Lookout area was the victim of a boat strike. In addition to the usual meds, she was also given the honey treatment along with physical therapy on her neck and flippers to get her in tip-top shape for her journey home. Maddie stranded in Massachusetts and arrived with a plane load of other cold-stuns. A definite favorite during public tours this little cutie also tripled her weight during her stay with us.
Finally, it was Copper’s turn. This juvenile loggerhead stranded in Wrightsville Beach after being accidentally hooked on a fishing line. Unfortunately, the hook had travelled into his esophagus and had to be surgically removed by the great vets at CMAST. Having a sore throat never affected his appetite as he was the first turtle to pop up in the morning with a big grin and a “got breakfast?” look on his face. He managed to convince Dr. Harms that was totally OK and ready to roll so roll he did, down the beach on our “turtle taxi” waving good-bye with his big boy flippers. Out of six turtles he seemed to be the most reluctant to actually leave us, taking a few steps and then turning around over and over to take one last look at the island before finally catching a wave and heading out. Bon voyage, class of 2022.
With fewer visitors to the island and our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers officially off-duty until next May we rely increasingly on our locals, anglers and boaters to notify us about any turtle in distress. If you see a turtle that’s been injured or stranded 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 send trained volunteers to retrieve the turtle. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. All conservation work for endangered sea turtles at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 22ST05.
Hospital closed for public tours. We are closed to the public at least through November 24th for facility improvements. If all goes well, we may be able to open for a few days in December. In the meantime, you can visit our gift shop and adopt a turtle on-line at our website reservations page. Check our Facebook page for the latest information and any updates on our progress.