We had a lot of sticks and stones and other “stuff” on our property after several years of construction activity at our new sea turtle hospital. So while the inside was finally looking good, well, the outside not so much. And to get our certificate of occupancy from the town we needed to have the landscaping in place. We were stuck between a rock and more rocks!

We had a lot of sticks and stones and other “stuff” on our property after several years of construction activity at our new sea turtle hospital. So while the inside was finally looking good, well, the outside not so much. And to get our certificate of occupancy from the town we needed to have the landscaping in place. We were stuck between a rock and more rocks!

Now it didn’t seem right to ask our hospital volunteers who have been sweating through the winter caring for 58 sick turtles to spend their off days digging and raking. Thankfully a group of Wilmingtonarea employees (and patrons) of a national coffee chain stepped up and, more importantly, showed up, ready to take on this task.

Stewart Schroeder, manager of a coffee shop in Landfall encourages volunteerism among his staff. Stewart recently relocated here from Alexandria, Va., where he volunteered with several environmental causes. He brought his background in biology, his love of sailing and the ocean and his can-do attitude along with him. So when he began looking for an environmental project “with the most pressing needs” he immediately thought of us.

Once he met with Director Jean Beasley he was sure that he had found the perfect fit. We’ve always walked the talk: over 350 rehabilitated patients and a director with a long list of local, national and international awards (including Animal Planet Hero of the Year) attesting to her expertise and total devotion to sea turtles. So this was something Stewart felt comfortable in committing to long term, and he intends to make the relationship permanent. In fact, he plans on one volunteer workday every month, and has hinted about the “big event” scheduled for April.

This month’s project was clearing the debris from the fill in the large area that will one day house our education center. In the interim this area, which we call “the mall,” will be used for displays and special events. Armed with shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows and a good bit of muscle and enthusiasm the crew worked like crazy to get the yard ready for sod and some native plantings. Their previous project was cleaning the cement floors in our 13,800-square-foot building in preparation for the sealant. According to Stewart they come “to do whatever Jean needs done; not just the glamour work.”

He and his volunteers want to see our hospital completed just as much as we do, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get us closer to moving in our staff and patients. When we finally throw open our doors to the public those volunteers can point to our beautifully landscaped property and say, “We did that.” Flipper hugs from the staff and patients!

And the cold continues …

Our “kids” are definitely on the mend. The cold stuns that came pouring through our doors over the past few months have finished their course of antibiotics and are eating us out of house and hospital. Those docile, frozen little greens (and a few Kemp’s and loggerheads) are now like a bunch of toddlers on a sugar high. They spend a lot of time zipping around their tanks but still have plenty of energy in reserve to make a fuss during their daily bath and tank cleaning. Our cardinal rule is “never let go, no matter what,” so our staff is always sporting a fresh crop of cuts and bruises from those powerful flippers and sharp nails. But being a “hospital” we have a ready stock of first aid supplies, so we just pour on a little betadine, top with some triple antibiotic cream and go on to the next carapace. If the bleeding is really bad, there’s always duct tape!

Since Mother Nature is holding back on the warmer, spring weather it’s probable we haven’t seen the last of the cold stuns. We still rely on you to be our eyes on the beaches, sounds and waterways not only during the winter but all year. So we’ll keep repeating what to do if you should find a cold-stunned sea turtle.

The turtle may appear to be dead (and very cold) but there is a chance that it’s cold-stunned and can be successfully rehabilitated with immediate and proper care If it’s not moving don’t assume it is dead. It might be cold stunned, and when rescued in time the prognosis for these critters is excellent.

If you come across a stunned turtle carefully pick it up and place it in a protected but not overly warm area (a garage, car or laundry room would work well.)

Do not place the turtle in warm water; a sudden change in temperature will send it into shock and possibly kill it.

Immediately call the Wildlife Resources Commission’s sea turtle emergency hotline number at: 252-241-7367. Someone is available 24/7 to answer calls. They will make arrangements to have the turtle picked up.

If you are unable to get through to them you may call our Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880; Jean at: 910-470-2800, or the turtle hospital at: 910-328-3377. All sea turtles are federally protected and harassing or harming them in any way will result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment.

Dare’s Reef re-opens

If you have a departed loved one who expressed a wish for a burial at sea there’s an artificial reef right off of Topsail that already contains about 50 concrete reef balls, many of them memorial balls with the remains of individuals who wanted to “sleep with the fishes.” Dare’s Reef, established in 2006 with the support of Eternal Reefs, is dedicated to our beloved Kemp’s Ridley “Dare” who died after many years in our care. Even though she was never able to recover from her long list of physical and neurological problems we wanted to send her home.

Now her reef is open again, but the time for reserving space is near: March 12 is the cutoff date, with the actual reef ball casting on April 12 and the placement at sea on April 15. Visit eternalreefs.comor their Facebook page for all the details. The process of casting the ball and the placement in the ocean are amazingly healing events.

Something for everyone

If you’re looking for a unique gift consider adopting one of our patients from the current “Adopt-A-Sea-Turtle” list. Your contribution pays for their care during their rehabilitation, and you’ll be invited to their release once they’re cleared to go. There are levels of adoption to fit any budget, so click the adoption link on our website and adopt a new friend. Another way to support us is by participating in our “Family Giving Challenge,” which earns you and your family a place of honor on the wall of our new facility.

If you’re in the area you can shop every Tuesday from 8:30to 10:30 AMat our gift shop annex. Stop by the hospital, knock on our door and ask for Peggy. She’ll escort you to the shop and be your personal shopping advisor on all sea turtle gifts. We have a nice supply of T’s (long and short sleeve), hoodies, hats, visors, bags and other “stuff.” Please be prepared to pay with cash or by check; we cannot accept credit cards at the annex. You can visit our website (seaturtlehospital.org) to preview the items and explore the various options for adoption and other ways to support us.

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions regarding 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. The next issue, “How We Spent Our Year,” is in production and will include our “Director’s Message” and an update on the new facility. This column appears every other week until next spring, unless we have really exciting news to share! Follow us and our patients on our Facebook page: The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.


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