If you were feeling the chill when the arctic blast blew in this past weekend you weren’t alone. For any sea turtle still around our inshore waters when the temps plunged into the 20s they were most likely beyond chilled — they were stunned — literally. Yep — it’s our (not favorite) season at the hospital: cold-stunning season.

While we were enjoying our extended warmth into December the New England Aquarium was gathering up their first batch of frozen sea turtles and preparing them for transport to other facilities for extended care. A few weeks ago we picked up nine banana boxes of little Kemp’s that arrived by private plane in Beaufort. Our Yankee friends were really on their toes because these critters appear to have been rescued before too much obvious damage had been done. But if you’ve been reading this column over the years and have visited our facility you know that the really serious stuff can take months to show up.

The Kemp’s, who have been named after characters in the Harry Potter books, have made themselves at home in Sick Bay where they receive extra TLC by our volunteers. At first reluctant to eat (except for one who continues to eat enough for all of them and asked to identified only as “Turtle X”) they’ve begun to appreciate their skillfully prepared fish, squid and shrimp and the individual attention they receive during their morning meal. Treatment continues with a soapy bath, topical potions for cuts and abrasions and eye drops and injections as needed. Kemp’s have a lot of attitude no matter how tiny they are (and we have a few bitty ones) so Sick Bay is a pretty hoppin’ place these days. And probably about to get a lot more crowded after last weekend.

Please be on the lookout for any turtle stranded on the beaches or in the marshy areas as it’s very possibly a cold-stun. Do not assume it is dead even though it is cold and not moving. Cold-stuns are unable to move their flippers, head or even blink their eyes because all of the blood has been redirected to their core to keep their vital organs functioning. They are vulnerable to wind, blowing sand and predators. They are helpless.

If you find a critter in this situation carefully pick it up and place it in an unheated area like your garage or car. Do not try to warm it up as a rapid change in temperature might cause it to go into shock. It’s important that the critter not lay exposed on the beach for hours, subject to weather and predators. Call our Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880, Hospital Director Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800, the State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles at 252-241-7367 (picks up 24/7) or our hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. If you are local we will quickly send one of our volunteers to retrieve the turtle for follow-up care at the hospital.

Last chance to visit in 2016

Our last two days in 2016 for public tours are Dec. 15 and 17. After that it’s sayonara until late spring of 2017. We’re open from 1 to 4 p.m. those two days and just as a reminder we do close our building at 4:30 sharp, so plan on allowing about 45-minutes for your visit.

Admission is $5 adults; $4 seniors (65+) and active military with ID and $3 for children 13 and over. The hospital is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City. From N.C. 210/50 turn onto Charlie Medlin Drive. (Shipwreck Point Mini Golf is your landmark) and follow it through the roundabout onto Tortuga. Our gift shop is open during tours and we have a lot of exclusive hospital clothing and plush animal merchandise and other “stuff” perfect for the turtle lover on your holiday shopping list — or for yourself!

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at flippers@att.net. This column will appear every other week until spring.


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