By Karen Sota
With nesting season officially over, there are no more visits by turtle mamas until next year. From now on, hatchlings and our rehabilitated patients are outbound and headed to their preferred wintering waters.
Recently four turtles were released after undergoing complete examinations by Dr. Harms and the four fourth-year vet students who spent a few weeks with us. Each student was assigned several turtles as their case studies and did everything from help us with food prep, cleaning, and treatments to blood draws and radiographs. In two instances they provided a beauty treatment for Snooki and Lennie. In the ocean, Snooki and Lennie would be chowing down on crustaceans that would keep their beaks from overgrowing. But since we do not have a regular supply of oysters, clams, conch, and other crunchy stuff their beak can get big and raggedy. So how do you fix that? A PVC pipe to keep their mouth open (without biting us) and a Dremel with a grinding bit to smooth out the edges of their beaks. It probably annoys them but does not hurt them in any way.
After every turtle in our hospital was examined from beak to tail scute and scale three greens, Bittersweet, Eggplant, and Key Lime Pearl, and one Kemp’s, Antique Gray, were handed their swimming papers. It’s tradition that we let the vet students be the ones who get to release their patients. On a bright and sunny Thursday, we loaded everybody into our van and headed to a nearby beach access where only a handful of visitors were enjoying their day. By the time we unloaded the last turtle from the van the beach had filled up with about a hundred people who seemed to materialize out of thin air. There is no denying that these critters possess some kind of magic that instinctively draws people to them.
Our volunteers carried the lucky turtles up and down the rows for a final photo op before the three greens were handed off to the vet students who carried them into the surf and set them free. Antique Gray was lowered to the sand where she looked around for a final farewell before putting her flippers into gear and heading for the waves. She was a stunningly beautiful Kemp’s, and her coloring was quite unusual. She was truly antique gray.
Although our patient load is lighter, typical for this time of year, we still have a few more turtles who just missed the cut but should be willing to go before we close for tours in mid-October. Check our Facebook page in the coming weeks for any updates on their release.
Hospital tours ending soon. During September we will be open Thursday through Saturday from 11 AM – 2 PM. October 1st though the 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 Visit page. We will be closed October 16th through November 30th for an extensive renovation of our Sea Turtle Bay area and other facility upgrades
Nests are still hatching, and we are still admitting larger turtles for various illnesses and injuries so please continue to be our additional eyes for any hatchings or turtles in distress of any kind. With nests hatching all over the island it would be easy to miss one of the little guys who didn’t hear the alarm clock and leave the nest with his siblings. If you find a hatchling on the beach carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with some sand and a small amount of water - barely cover the flippers. With this continuing heat it’s important that the little critter not bake in the sun for hours. Then 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 one of our area coordinators will meet you to retrieve the hatchling and refer it 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. All conservation work for endangered sea turtle at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 22ST05.