Topsail Advertiser
  • Moving on and moving in

  • It’s one of the most anticipated days of the year for the volunteers and turtles at the hospital: the day our rehabilitated patients get their discharge papers and move on. For 28 turtles — one loggerhead, two Kemp’s Ridleys and 25 young greens — that day was last Wednesday. And after a record-breaking year for admits (65) we were all pretty happy to part ways.
  • It’s one of the most anticipated days of the year for the volunteers and turtles at the hospital: the day our rehabilitated patients get their discharge papers and move on. For 28 turtles — one loggerhead, two Kemp’s Ridleys and 25 young greens — that day was last Wednesday. And after a record-breaking year for admits (65) we were all pretty happy to part ways.
    As our patients were finishing their breakfast the hospital volunteers were busy making final preparations for the trip to the beach; staging turtles in tanks, soaking towels in water to keep the little guys cool and hydrated on the trip and welcoming the invited press and guests. It was a chance for “turtle people” up and down the coast to reconnect and catch-up, this being one of the few times during the year that we see each other. And it was also an opportunity to reunite with many of our externs who faithfully make the trip each year from all over the country just to see these magnificent creatures fully recovered and headed home. We’re very proud of their accomplishments: many of them are now full-fledged vets, and many others are in grad school or have found jobs in research, conservation or the environment. We train ‘em good during those 12 weeks they spend with us!
    During a short ceremony our director, Jean Beasley, assigned each turtle to their escort(s) after which we quickly loaded into vehicles and caravanned to the beach. The crowd of about 400 cheered wildly as we crested the dune access: “Turtles! Turtles! Turtles!” Beth Howard, an art teacher at Dixon prepares signs with each turtle’s name for every release, and children from area schools have the honor of walking just ahead of that turtle as they are carried down the beach and out into the surf. While the crowd waves and snaps pictures during that long walk the turtles remain focused on only one thing: home! Our volunteers had to brave some pretty rough surf, struggling with excited critters to get them out past the breaking waves so they wouldn’t get washed back in. Not one of these turtles turned back with a final wave with their flipper — they were just gone! Our work was done, at least for the moment. Back at the hospital over 30 patients were waiting for us to return and tend to them.
    Flipper hugs to everyone who worked to make this a release successful.
    And moving in!
    For those of you who wondered where this column has been over the past month, well, things have been whipping along so quickly with the new facility that it became an exercise in futility to report the progress with any kind of accuracy. We’re close — real close.
    June will not be an easy month for any of us. Not only do we have an ark full of patients large and small but we typically start filling up with new admits as we move into the summer. If you’ve ever toured our hospital you know how much equipment it takes to rehabilitate a sea turtle. Everything will have to move and that’s not going to be easy, or overnight. Will we need help? Absolutely — and we’ll put the word out whenever we do. It’s been a long and often frustrating process but we’re almost there.
    Page 2 of 3 - Tours? Not yet
    We know that people plan their vacations around a visit to our hospital and we’re constantly fielding calls and e-mails about our hours. Here’s the lowdown on where we are and what to expect.
    We will NOT open for tours at our current location.
    We WILL resume tours (early-mid July) at the new building.
    Turtle Talks will resume when we open at the new building.
    Once we are in the new facility the gift shop will be in full operation and there will be tours year-round. Please visit our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for daily updates on our progress.
    Nests, nests, nests
    We’re into double digits in nests as of this writing as our lovely loggerhead ladies have found Topsail beaches to be a perfect place to raise their family. There are a few simple but very important things residents and visitors can do to keep our mamas safe as the season continues throughout the summer. Turn off outdoor lights; they can disorient and distract a nesting turtle. If you dig holes be sure to fill them in before you leave the beach for the day. Holes are not only a hazard for humans (there have been numerous injuries over the years) but they can trap/injure a turtle and cause her to lose her eggs. Ditto with beach furniture that’s been abandoned or even just left out overnight.
    All species of sea turtles are federally protected and harassing or harming them in any way will result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment. Our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers patrol all 26 miles of the island every morning, but you are an important part of their work — they can’t be everywhere 24/7. If you come across a nesting turtle or turtle tracks on the beach contact Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880.
    If you come across a stranded turtle immediately call the Wildlife Resources Commission’s sea turtle emergency hotline number at: 252-241-7367. Someone is available 24/7 to pick up calls. Locally you can call Terry (910-470-2880) or Jean at 910-470-2800. Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (strandings, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Terry. She can be reached at: topsailseaturtle@aol.com for non-emergencies.
    Questions, comments, suggestions?
    Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: flippers@att.net. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: flippers@att.net. If your e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list. We’re holding publication of the next issue until after we make the move to the new facility.
    Page 3 of 3 -  
    Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.

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