Like sand in your shoes?

Then boogie on over to one of the training classes for Topsail Turtle Project volunteers. Seems like we just wrapped up the final numbers on last year’s activity and it’s already time to get our carapaces in gear for our 2013 nesting and hatching season.

Like sand in your shoes?

Then boogie on over to one of the training classes for Topsail Turtle Project volunteers. Seems like we just wrapped up the final numbers on last year’s activity and it’s already time to get our carapaces in gear for our 2013 nesting and hatching season.

From May 1st through the end of August mama Loggerheads head home with their precious cargo, fertilized eggs ready to be deposited and incubated here on Topsail. Begun in the early 1980s by Karen Beasley, our all-volunteer force dedicated to patrolling every grain of sand on the island during nesting season has grown exponentially. Good thing, too, because it takes a lot of footprints to cover 26 miles of shoreline every morning for four months!

So what exactly do our “beach walkers” do? Under the guidance of Terry Meyer (director of Beach Operations) and her area coordinators (experienced volunteers who have logged many miles on the sand) you’ll patrol your assigned section of beach on the same day (or days) of each week. You’ll look for turtle tracks and signs of nesting, and then assist your area coordinator in determining whether you’ve found a viable nest or a false crawl. If you’ve got a nest (yay!) you’ll be staking it out and checking it for any signs of disturbance or hatching during your subsequent walks.

Generally, hatching takes place about 60 days from the time the nest was laid, so many of those early nests will begin hatching in July. Of course you’ll want to be present when “your” babies make their appearance. Although hatching continues through October many of our beach walkers are seasonal residents who head home at the end of the summer, sadly missing out on the blessed event. Our remaining beach walkers then step in as foster parents to assist with the hatch.

If you’re able to commit to the May through August nesting timeframe you’re encouraged to sign up. If you’re only available part of that time come to the training anyway and ask to be put on the list for subs. Or come just because you want to know more about our sea turtles.

Two training sessions are scheduled for Topsail Turtle Project volunteers at the Surf City Welcome Center, 102 N. Shore Drive in Surf City: April 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. and April 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  You’ll see a short video, lots of cools pics and get handouts with sea turtle facts. It’s a chance to meet and talk to the area coordinators and other volunteers. And of course, we have official Topsail Turtle Project team gear, a specially designed T-shirt that you can purchase for a nominal charge when you sign up.

Training is optional for returning volunteers but is encouraged because you just never know what surprises Terry might have up her sleeve. We’re always learning something new from the increased interest in and research on the secret lives of these magnificent creatures.

For more information, contact Terry at 910-470-2880 or

Stunning news

This crazy up-and-down March weather is driving man and beast nuts. We’re still flipper-to-flipper with 58 turtles, many of them recovered cold-stuns but all of them hoping to catch the first wave out of here. Sorry kids: you’re not going anywhere ’til mama turtle (Jean) and our turtle vet (Dr. Harms) give you the “green” (and Kemp’s and Loggerhead) light!

Please continue to keep a lookout for any turtles you see stranded on the beach, in the grasses along the shore and in the water. 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 pick up calls. Locally you can call Terry (see number below) or Jean at: 910-470-2800.

Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (strandings, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. Terry can be reached at: for non-emergencies. All sea turtles are federally protected and harassing or harming them in any way will result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment.

Tuesday is the day to shop

Don’t forget that our gift shop is open every Tuesday until further notice. Just knock on our hospital door between 9 and 11 a.m. any Tuesday and tell us you’re there to shop. Preview some of the items we have available online at our website before you come; and remember, we can only accept cash and checks at this time. Of course you can use our online ordering service at your convenience because our website never closes: Stay connected with our patients and on the progress of the new hospital. We’re stocked with clothing and other gifts and goodies perfect for turtle lovers. Follow the links to “Adopt-A-Sea-Turtle,” we have some pretty high maintenance patients who need all the financial and moral support you can provide. There’s still time to add your family’s name to our wall of fame with the “Family Giving Challenge.” 

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: If your e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list. We’re holding publication of the next issue until after we make the move to the new facility — hopefully sometime in late April.


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