We know that the official hospital summer is here when three things happen: the first nest is laid on Topsail, our summer interns (senior and junior) are here and on the job and Dr. Harms has compiled his final list of the lucky turtles who will be going home in the very near future.
First, the nests: we have three of them at the moment. This is pretty much loggerhead territory so that’s going to be the bulk of the nests we see, but we can always hope for another green or two. Last year, for the first time ever, we got a Kemp’s! There’s no way of telling how many we’ll end up with by the end of August but we’re hoping for a banner year like we had several seasons ago with 170 nests. Nesting is exhausting for a four-hundred-plus pound turtle so remember that if you happen to see a mama in the process (lucky you) step away and let her complete her work in peace.
Our senior interns survived boot camp and by the time you read this we’ll be ready to back off a bit and let them take the reins for the next few months under the direction of Caroline Balch, a 2017 summer intern. Caroline has remained with us since last summer as Jean’s right hand but will be leaving in early August for vet school at NC State. This is an interesting group of individuals, including one from South Africa, with varied interests and educational backgrounds. You’ll meet them all soon in this column.
Releases are just around the corner. With about 30 turtles on Dr. Harm’s list of parolees you’ll have more than one chance to watch these fully rehabilitated, magnificent creatures return home. Some have been here for years, and others just a few months or weeks. Releases are huge events here on Topsail and it’s obvious by the crowds that humans are just as excited as turtles to be participants. Watch our Facebook page for details.
And one more time: turtles at the end of a hook are still surprising anglers at our local piers. Do not pull out the hook, especially if they appear to have swallowed it; and please leave about two feet of line attached to the hook(s) before cutting away any of your gear. The pier managers can assist you with the process, and have the contact information to ensure that the turtle gets the proper follow-up care at our hospital.
Finally, tours: Until June 1 we will be open only on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Beginning June 1 we will open on our summer schedule which is daily, except Wednesdays and Sundays, from noon – 4 p.m.
Please continue to report any sea turtle sightings (nestings, strandings, injuries) to Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880 or Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800. We will also pick up on the hospital line (910-329-0222) if the call comes into us during general hospital hours. The state of NC also has a stranding hotline that picks up 24/7: 252-241-7367.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.