We’re whipping through the year, and despite having a (summer) record of more than 40 patients to care for, being up all night answering turtle calls and protecting nesting turtles on the beach, waking up in the early hours of the morning to monitor turtle nests and spending their afternoons getting the new hospital buffed for company our interns are alive and kickin’, and still smiling. Time to meet another one.


We’re whipping through the year, and despite having a (summer) record of more than 40 patients to care for, being up all night answering turtle calls and protecting nesting turtles on the beach, waking up in the early hours of the morning to monitor turtle nests and spending their afternoons getting the new hospital buffed for company our interns are alive and kickin’, and still smiling. Time to meet another one.



Nate Peters hails from Galway, N.Y. and attends Fulton Montgomery Community College where he is studying paleontology. Although he says he loves doing field work — in fact, he spent time in Wyoming excavating fossils — our internship gives him a chance to work with some living critters, and to study sea turtle ecology.



Nate has obviously been spending a lot of time closely observing our patients. His eyes sparkle when he talks about the “historical roots” and the traits the turtles still carry from their ancient ancestors. Hatchlings are born with what we sometimes colloquially refer to as “little dinosaur spikes” on their backs. These probably provide some form of protection from predators during their early years, but they eventually flatten out as the turtle grows. (Note: Our almost-5-year-old patient “Lefty” still has his stegosaurus spikes and frankly looks pretty much like he’s part dinosaur!) Nate also notes that our turtle’s nares (nostrils) sit high on their beaks, in the same position as their land ancestors. He’s got lots more to tell you if you happen to run into him around town or on the beach.



Although most interns research us online we always find that once they get here the work far exceeds their expectations. Nate is really happy to have the amount of hands-on experience that we require of our interns. There’s a lot of stress involved in what we do, and Nate says that although he feels very capable in the animal husbandry aspects he’s very careful about being exacting in terms of making sure they are properly fed, get their daily vitamins and supplements and that any treatment protocols are closely followed. He says: “Thankfully, turtles are pretty forgiving.” Not so with our water treatment system: “You have to have the demeanor of a bomb squad when you’re working with it.” ‘Nuff said.



Although we don’t like to admit to having favorite turtles, everyone does. Nate’s best bud is “Raphael” a small Kemp’s Ridley admitted this winter with a slew of cold-stunned greens. Whenever turtles are displeased with something (and you’re never really sure what ticks them off) the first thing they do is quit eating. When Raphael got moved to a different tank he went into a snit and refused to eat anything. After many “food battles” Nate eventually emerged the victor. He says Raphael still has mood swings, from “cute and cuddly to ‘don’t touch me!’” but finishing his breakfast is no longer an issue.



Nate spends what spare time he has here reading, with a special interest in sea turtle anatomy and ecology books.  But, he says, working here over the 12 weeks is like taking an entire semester of courses in anatomy, physiology, animal population, medicine and ecological impact. “It’s the best place to learn how reptiles affect the ecosystem.”



Nate will return to school as a rising sophomore, with hopes to eventually work at a museum or university.



New hospital: tours, no; gift shop, yes



We’re well into making the transition to the new hospital. A lot of the “stuff” we’ve had staged for transport is being moved into what has been a big, empty space for far too long. But moving does not mean we’re open. If you’ve ever moved you know how long it takes to get your house looking like a home again, and to get your kids settled. In our case we have over 40 “kids” (and a staff of volunteers) to acclimate to their new surroundings. Until we can get the chaos organized we just can’t invite you in for tours; BUT we ARE just about ready to open the gift shop area, and in fact it should be open by the time you read this. We’ll have all of our usual turtle gear, including our best-selling logo shirts and a whole passel of plush turtles in all sizes and “species.” Other items exclusive to our hospital include hoodies, hats, visors, bags and T-shirts in other designs, for kids and adults. You can also fill out your paperwork for adopting one of our patients, or get details for adding your name to our Family Giving Challenge wall.



We still have some finishing touches to complete in a few sections of the building, and we’re setting up and tweaking our new water system so we can’t open for tours. We do plan on having a soft opening for visitors sometime in August, with our Grand Opening scheduled for the fall. We are NOT open for tours at our current location in Topsail Beach.



Please visit our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center), or check with the Surf City Welcome Center or Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce for the hours that our gift shop is in operation. If you’re in Topsail Beach you can purchase our logo shirt at the Quarter Moon Bookstore.



Our new hospital is located off-island in Surf City, directly behind the Surf City Community Center.  We’re the big tan building with the light green roof. Stop in and shop!



Nesting + holes = disaster



We rely on our visitors and residents to help us maintain a safe nesting environment by following a few simple rules. 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. If you dig holes fill them in before you leave the beach. Take in beach furniture; don’t just abandon your paraphernalia when you leave for the day, or week. Turn off outdoor lights; they can disorient and distract a nesting turtle.



All species of sea turtles are federally protected and harassing or harming them in any way will result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment. Even though our volunteers are out every morning they can’t be everywhere all the time. If you come across a nesting turtle or turtle tracks on the beach contact our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. She answers calls 24/7 during the season. Strandings and injured or sick turtles should also be reported 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.



 



Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.