Seriously? Temps in the teens and wind chills in the single digits? If you’ve been cold stunned by this weather you now have an idea of what our turtle-sicle patients were feeling before they were rescued. There’s almost nowhere our volunteers can go without being stopped by people asking how the turtles are coping with this arctic blast. If they’re one of the lucky ones that made it to our hospital they’re doing “OK” – at least for the most part.
Right now we’re wall-to-wall in Sick Bay with smaller Kemp’s (the original group from New England) plus a handful of local small greens and a few juvenile loggerheads. After having a room full of Kemp’s frustratingly refusing food for weeks the many hours of daily coaxing by our staff has finally paid off. They are regaining their appetite, adding weight and reverting to a typical Kemp’s personality – feisty. They still have a very long way to go: physical effects of cold-stunning can take months to manifest and they are carefully monitored for even the slightest changes in body condition. The greens and loggerheads that came in were admitted in fairly good shape. They still had some weight on them, and it didn’t take long before they were happily snarfing down some pretty healthy breakfast portions.
This weather has presented an additional challenge to our work. If you’ve been in to visit you know that Sea Turtle Bay, the “big house” is a sizeable room with very high ceilings. We’re in a metal building with cement floors so we’re trying all kinds of MacGyver-like fixes to make sure our patients remain in a turtle-comfy environment. If you’re looking to buy one of those sealed oil heaters, sorry – they’re all in our hospital. We probably should have bought stock in the company that makes them. Even Sick Bay, which is in the center of the hospital chills down in this kind of weather and needs supplemental heat. Thank goodness that we have a lot of large towels because the doors have “towel snakes” in front of them to cut down on drafts. And mats, thick rubber mats are under tanks and lined up over the water trench in an effort to trap heat inside.
It’s hard to predict exactly how many more cold-stuns might be headed our way. If they haven’t been picked up and taken to one of the many facilities up and down the coast providing care for them by now, well…. Even though it’s extremely unlikely that a turtle has survived this kind of prolonged freezing weather just in case you see a turtle on the beach or in the marshy area that is not moving please do not assume that it’s dead; it could be cold stunned. If it’s a little guy gently pick it up and relocate it to a car, garage or other unheated area of your home. DO NOT try to warm it up – the shock of a quick temperature change could send it into shock. We’ll send our staff out to rescue any and all turtles, big and small when you give us the word. Call one of the following numbers if you suspect you’ve come across a local cold-stunned turtle: Hospital contacts are Terry Meyer @ 910-470-2880 and Jean Beasley @ 910-470-2800. We will also pick up on the hospital line (910-329-0222) if the call comes into us early in the day. The state of NC has a stranding hotline that picks up 24/7: 252-241-7367
On a lighter note: even though we have cameras everywhere in our building recording 24/7/365 we’re never really sure what our patients are up to once we leave. But we think we may have found some evidence that even sea turtles enjoy a good party. Take a look at the picture of little green “Sunrise” who was obviously recovering from a New Years Eve celebration. Not sure how well the cucumber-on-the-head cure might work for humans. Thanks to volunteer Dorothy Strahley who snapped this picture that will forever live in infamy on the web.
The hospital is now closed for tours until spring of 2018. This column will appear every other week through spring 2018. Direct questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: email@example.com.