Turtle personalities are just as varied as people’s. There are the quiet ones who lounge around near the bottom of their tank only coming up for breakfast or air. And then there are the ones who do everything they can to attract a crowd. If you’ve been to visit us you know that “Snookie” happens to like the spotlight.

Snookie arrived at our hospital almost a year ago (Oct. 30) after a short stay at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. This very large (over three-hundred pound) loggerhead had stranded multiple times along the beach in Avalon until her rescue. We won’t go into details at this late date but we will say that just getting this zaftig lady from NJ to NC and finally to our facility took a very large village. And a huge crate, roomy plane and lots of big men!

Snookie’s stranding was a bit of a mystery. She certainly wasn’t one of our “Barnacle Bill” turtles that come in emaciated and covered with all sorts of sea life. She was obviously pretty smart and very lucky as she had minimal injuries and just a few scars from all of those years living in the wild. She was eating well, and even arrived with a cooler full of her favorite food – conch. But something was just not right with her. And so began our year-long ongoing quest to figure it out.

Snookie had, and continues to have regular exams by our turtle vet, Dr. Craig Harms. His visits include a physical exam, bloodwork and tissue samples of any suspicious areas. For much of her first year with us Snookie was treated on a daily basis for persistent skin lesions, and prescribed various oral antibiotics as needed. A few months ago she was well enough to require her beauty treatment only once a week. While she’s looking good on the outside there is one thing keeping her here: she lists slightly, and either can’t or won’t spend time on the bottom of her tank. Turtles in the wild need to feed and sleep on the bottom. If Snookie can’t get down and stay down long enough to do those things she cannot be released.

Maybe, we thought, she just needs a larger tank to get a “running start” towards the bottom. So the next step was to find somebody to manufacture a tank that was “just right.” It had to be small enough fit into Sea Turtle Bay without too much disruption to existing plumbing, as well as small enough to allow our staff to get in and work with Snookie as needed. But it also had to be generous enough to give Snookie room to swim in something other than circles so that she could prove that she can get to and stay on the bottom. The tank, an oval fiberglass 8’ X 17’ behemoth arrived last week and is now inside Sea Turtle Bay, thanks to a group of Camp Lejeune marines who muscled it in through a series of doors.

On tap for the next week or so is getting all the plumbing supplies ready to move the tank into its permanent home. That’s the easy part. After that Snookie, who is now well over three-hundred pounds and is not happy when she’s taken out of water for even a short period of time gets moved into her new tank. Looks like we’ll have to call in the Marines again!

Watch this column for an update on “Project Snookie” in the near future. And tune into “Snookie Cam” once she’s in her new home!

We’re on our fall and winter tour schedule and are open only on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. through Dec. 16, our last public tour day for 2017. But we’ve scheduled a special “shopping only” date on December 20th for last minute holiday gifts. We will be closed on Thanksgiving (November 23rd) but open on Friday November 24th for “black Friday” shoppers. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for active military and seniors 65+ and $3 for children 12 and under. The hospital is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City. From NC 50/210 turn onto Charlie Medlin Dr. (your landmark is Shipwreck Point Mini Golf) and follow it through the roundabout onto Tortuga. Our gift shop is always open during tours. Come in and meet our turtles and our staff; we’re fluent in sea turtle. Now that we’re into the fall fishing season we’d like to remind all of you expert anglers that our turtles LOVE fresh fish, especially blues, albacore and meaty stuff. So if you find yourself with more than you can use please give us a call (910-329-0222) and we’ll gladly take them off of your hands and make sure they do not go to waste.

This column will appear every other week through the rest of the year. Direct questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: flippers@att.net.

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