Patience eventually pays off if you’re a patient at our hospital. Last Tuesday the final four little guys cleared for release by our turtle vet, Dr. Craig Harms hit the surf and headed home. Greens “March” and “Stewey” and Kemp’s “Onslow Baby” and “Seaview IV” were all relative short-timers. But no turtle is released until it is cleared by Dr. Harms as totally rehabilitated - all damages healed, flippers and eyes in good working order. Something as simple as a point or two off on their bloodwork can delay their swimming papers.

Perfect late-summer weather and an impressive off-season crowd were on hand to greet the turtles as they crested the walkover, carried by our UNCW interns and escorted by the hospital team leaders who staff the Saturday shift. It was hard to tell who was more excited about the release: turtles and interns were all ready to get in and get wet.

Because it was such a beautiful day (the sun wasn’t baking critters and humans) and the turtles were all on the small side (not a bunch of two-hundred pound loggerheads slapping the daylight out of their handlers!) the stroll past the crowd was a little more leisurely than most of our releases. Everyone had a chance to get a good look at and snap some great pics as the turtles all seemed to enjoy the attention.

Once past the crowd it was into the surf, which was still a bit rough from the recent storms, and out past the breakers. Pity the poor intern who got smacked down by a sneaky wave that took her to the bottom right after the turtle left her hands! These turtles may have all been little but they are zippy when back in their element and they shot through the water, probably heading south with the currents.

This is our last release from the beach for this year as the waters begin to gradually cool and turtles take that cue to bulk up and head to friendlier climes. But fear not: we’re known in the sea turtle community for sending out “Beasley turtles,” aka “fat and happy” with enough reserves to keep them going until they’re re-acclimated to living on their own. Bon voyage kids – it was great having you with us for the summer.

We’re on our fall and winter tour schedule and are open only on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. through Dec. 16, our last public tour day for 2017. But watch our Facebook page for a special “shopping only” date for last minute holiday gifts. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for active military and seniors 65+ and $3 for children 12 and under. The hospital is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City. From NC 50/210 turn onto Charlie Medlin Dr. (your landmark is Shipwreck Point Mini Golf) and follow it through the roundabout onto Tortuga. Our gift shop is always open during tours. Come in and meet our turtles and our staff; we’re fluent in sea turtle. As we move into the fall fishing season we’d like to remind all of you expert anglers that our turtles LOVE fresh fish, especially blues. So if you find yourself with more than you can use please give us a call (910) 329-0222 and we’ll gladly take them off of your hands and make sure they do not go to waste.

This column will appear every other week through the rest of the year. Direct questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at:

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