We know sea turtles have charisma. When you meet one of our patients they have a way of getting under your carapace and staying with you long after you’ve left the building. That explains the long list of volunteer groups that return year after year to help us out.

We know sea turtles have charisma. When you meet one of our patients they have a way of getting under your carapace and staying with you long after you’ve left the building. That explains the long list of volunteer groups that return year after year to help us out.

Recently we welcomed 11 students and their staff advisor from The University of Maryland’s Integrated Life Sciences Honors Program. They are all honor students focused on biological sciences, and the application process and acceptance into this week-long program is quite competitive with a limited number chosen to make the trip.

We first met them in 2013 when they bubbled through our doors introducing themselves as “Terps Helping Turtles.” We had about 60 patients at that time (some things never change) and we were trying to get organized for the move to our new hospital. They pitched right in and did everything we asked, whether it was giving turtles baths, moving tanks or working on our landscaping at the new place. They really lived their name.

We immediately recognized two familiar faces from last year (Helen and Mike) and after we welcomed them with hugs we handed them the tools of our trade: bowls of fish and squid, “salad” for our little Greens and nets, buckets and mops. They split into informal groups; several were assigned to our ICU, another group to Sea Turtle Bay working with the large and feisty patients who are restlessly waiting for their release papers. A third group formed a general work party, cleaning and scrubbing our walls and trenches.

I spoke with Helen about why she gave up yet another spring break to spend time at our hospital. She had a whole list of reasons, beginning with being inspired by Jean’s story, and the way she grew her daughter’s work on our beaches into a legacy that became an internationally recognized sea turtle rehab facility. She was also moved by the passion of our all volunteer staff, and our commitment to doing whatever it takes to get these critters back home. It was a way for her and her fellow students to connect more closely with the environment and to understand how we, as “plastivores” (voracious consumers of anything that comes in plastic) are devastating not only our oceans but the food that we consume from those waters. Helen said working with our turtles leaves a lasting impression and “it’s a cause worthy of my time.” And, she added, “the new hospital is totally awesome!”

We couldn’t agree more with Helen. Big flipper hugs from our staff to the “Terps Helping Turtles” and we hope to see you all again next year.

Next tour in April

Our big lady “Padi” sends her thanks to the almost 600 visitors who came on March 15 to celebrate “Padi’s Day” with her. She’s still smiling about the enormous turnout, and it appears that there is now a contest in the works between her and another of our ladies to see who will draw the largest crowd of admirers. We’ll be celebrating “Big April’s” re-birthday on April 19 from 11-3. April was rescued near death from Wrightsville Beach a year ago. Check out the photos of her amazing transformation on our website, seaturtlehospital.org, and then mark your calendars to meet her in person on the 19th. (Spoiler alert: she’s been looking at cake recipes.)

Topsail Turtle Project volunteers

What’s better than an early morning walk on the beach? (Answer: not much.) We need volunteers to walk a short section of beach (about one mile) one or more days a week beginning May 1 through the end of August. Under the direction of your area coordinator you’ll patrol your section of the shoreline (finishing no later than 7:30 a.m.) looking for turtle tracks and signs of a nesting mama.

We’ve scheduled two training sessions so you’ll know exactly what this early morning promenade involves: April 2 from 1-3 p.m. and April 8 from 6-8 p.m. Training will be held at the Surf City Welcome Center (next to Daddy Mac’s.) Everybody is welcome, and even if you’re not sure you can commit to a day each week come anyway; there is always a need for subs and for volunteers to work into the hatching season sitting nests at night. While not mandatory for returning volunteers, there’s a lot new research out there and updates on the “egg” study that we’ve been participating in for a number of years. For more information contact Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at: to anpsailseaturtle@aol.com.

Cold-stun update

Although we’re nearing the end of our “cold-stun season” that’s not all good news. Larger turtles with more body mass may have been able to survive a cold-stun, but they are almost always severely weakened by their recovery process. These turtles are the ones that often devolve physically into the type of patient we refer to as our “Barnacle Bills.” When rescued they are lethargic, emaciated and covered with all forms of ocean parasites. Considering that our winter will never end they might even be cold-stunned, again. In the event that you do come across a turtle in distress here are the basic steps for a cold-stun rescue: If the turtle is small and easily handled remove it from the beach or water and place 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. The N.C. state hotline for any stranding is: 252-241-7367 and the call will be picked up 24/7. Locally, if you come across any turtle in distress you can text or phone our director, Jean Beasley, at 910-470-2800 or our beach director, Terry Meyer ,at 910-470-2880. Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (strandings, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Jean or Terry.

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: flippers@att.net. This column is in the off-season schedule of publication of every other week. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: flippers@att.net. Things are constantly changing, and the copy under construction is being updated so the news is fresh. At some point we’ll just bite the squid and get something out to our ever-growing (nearing 1,000) list. If your e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list.


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