By Karen Sota
The last nest laid on Topsail has hatched and hopefully a good portion of those babies made it out to the Sargasso Sea where they’ll spend the next year or so. Our recent admits have been victims of entanglements with fishing gear, mostly nets, and boat strikes. Some will be with us over the winter but thankfully most of them are short-timers that we will release soon along with several patients already given their swimming papers by Dr. Harms.
We’re getting ready to close to the public to complete major renovations in our main area, Sea Turtle Bay. But you can’t safely do that kind of work if there are turtles swimming around with contractors on lifts replacing lights and refinishing the floor. Our remaining patients must be relocated to other parts of the hospital for about six weeks. Not a problem; we have the space and most of them are small. Lennie, our permanent resident will have her tank moved into Sick Bay. The others will join her and if it gets jampacked, we have two other turtle-friendly areas. That leaves one noticeably big challenge: Snooki.
This very special loggerhead lady tops three hundred pounds and lives in the largest tank we could get through our doors. But we have two issues with her tank: it won’t go through any other doors, and it also needs some touch-up work done before we move it back into Sea Turtle Bay. (Note: anybody used to working with fiberglass who can help us out - let’s talk!) Luckily the therapy pool in Sick Bay is almost the same size as Snooki’s tank so we’ll be moving her very, very carefully into that pool. But how, you ask.
Over the past month several of our staff have been spending time in the water with Snooki, getting her used to “company” and being closely handled by people. After some initial side-eye and a look of general amusement she decided they were there to entertain her, a new toy (in some cases toys) to play with. Soon we’ll introduce the sling that will fit under her and hope that she’s receptive to that. The plan is that when the day of the move arrives she will be used to not only swimming onto the sling but also comfortable with “her people.” Then it’s a matter of pure muscle to get her onto the turtle taxi, down the hall and into the therapy pool. That’s the plan and we hope Snooki will be on board, literally, when the day comes.
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 tours end October 15th. Tours are Friday and Saturday from 11 AM – 2 PM. You must schedule and purchase your tickets in advance for a specific day and time through our website reservations page. We will be closed October 16th through November 24th for facility improvements. You can still visit our gift shop and adopt a turtle on-line at our website.