After only three weeks our staff and turtles have comfortably settled into our new home and new routines. No doubt that the work of physically relocating the rest of our “stuff” will continue for many months, but that’s not stopping us from opening the doors to visitors on the two days following Thanksgiving.
The new water system is performing beyond our expectations. The heavy duty pumps have exponentially increased the volume and pressure of the water flowing into (and out of) our patients’ tanks. Not only is the water crystal clear but there’s a pretty significant current constantly swirling around and around. The turtles have to work a bit harder as they chase and dive for breakfast. Even lazy afternoon cruising and enjoying the scenery is a workout. There’s “scenery?” Yep — the ceiling in Sea Turtle Bay is over 30 feet high with lots of skylights. The critters have been observed staring at the ceiling, something they never did at the old hospital with its 12-foot ceilings. What they find so fascinating will forever remain a mystery.
During your visit you’ll be free to spend as much time as you’d like in the Sea Turtle Bay observation area. Every day is different so there’s no telling what kind of activity will be going on when you get there. Feel free to ask our volunteers questions about our patients if they’re around. Don’t forget to say a special hello to our resident Kemp’s and hospital ambassador, “Lennie.” Because Lennie is blind we took special care to exactly replicate his old tank at our new place so he didn’t have to relearn where his “furniture” was. Watch for news early next year on “Lennie’s Fan Club.”
At the windows of our ICU, Sea Turtle Sick Bay, you can catch a glimpse of what it takes to care for hatchlings, cold-stuns and critically ill and injured patients. Revised federal regulations require that all new admits spend a minimum of sixty days quarantined in this area before being moved into the main rehabilitation area, Sea Turtle Bay. STSB is less crowded since seven of our recently admitted cold stuns, who just needed a few weeks of R&R, passed their tests and were taken out to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream on Nov. 22. We had 33 more hatchlings ready to go so they tagged along. These turtles, along with a number of others from facilities along the east coast, were given a ride by the US Coast Guard. From all reports it was an easy trip, the water in the Gulf Stream where the turtles were released was a toasty 78-degrees Fahrenheit, and turtles of all sizes were swimming happily as soon as they hit the water. Love those Coasties! Aid to endangered marine life is part of their mission and it is so helpful when these turtle trips can be coordinated with training missions. We still have six recent cold stuns needing a bit more recovery time as well as a group of those cute little hatchlings.
We’re continuing to stock our gift shop with our logo and other exclusive hospital designed Ts, including long-sleeved Ts, warm hoodies and sweats, lots of youth and toddler items and an array of locally crafted jewelry, pottery, sea turtle art and exclusive-to-us note cards. Come with your list of names and sizes and get some early holiday shopping wrapped up.
Tour and shopping hours are: Nov. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. and Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We’ll also be opening the gift shop and hospital during selective days in December. Admission to the sea turtle viewing area is: Adults, $5; military and seniors 65 and up, $4; children, $3. Visitors are always welcome to browse our gift shop, talk with volunteers, peek through the window and use the facilities for free if they don’t wish to take the tour. Watch this column and our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for additional holiday tour and shopping hours and any special events.
Directions to our new hospital in Surf City: Take the turn off of N.C. 50/210 onto Charlie Medlin Drive, which is the road next to the Shipwreck Point (Mini) Golf course. Follow the road onto the gravel section, through the round-about and onto Tortuga Lane. Stay on Tortuga until it ends and circle into our parking lot. Come in through the double glass doors.
These wild temperature swings look like they’re going to continue for a while. Most sea turtles should have picked up on the cues and have started migrating to warmer waters. But many others remain along the coast and inshore waters due to inexperience and/or a still plentiful food supply. We’ve already gotten our first wave of 14 cold-stuns, mostly little greens but a few small Kemps. Thankfully these critters were identified and rescued before too much damage was done. In fact some of them already caught a ride to where the water is turtle-comfy during the winter months.
Our visitors and residents are very important to our hospital and beach program because we can’t be everywhere 24/7. Sea turtles are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. That’s why a cold-stunned turtle can sometimes appear to be dead — it’s literally unable to move its flippers, head and often even close its eyes. You can help us by removing the turtle from the beach or water and placing it in an unheated area such as your garage, car or utility room. Do not try to warm it up! That could cause the turtle to go into shock. If you come across any turtle in distress immediately text or phone our director, Jean Beasley, at 910-470-2800. Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (strandings, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Jean. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org for non-emergencies.
Questions, comments, suggestions?
Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: email@example.com. This column moves to the off-season schedule of publication of every other week with this edition. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list. I’ve been adding everyone who requests the newsletter. The next one will be out around the holidays.
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.