Winter may have finally departed our coast but the memory lingers on – at least as far as cold-stunned turtles go. We’re getting in our crop of what we call “spring greens,” small greens that have probably been stunned, warmed up and stunned again, possibly multiple times. They’ve finally become debilitated enough to strand, emaciated and covered in barnacles and algae. Some of the algae was so long it looked like they were wearing fringed vests! Amazingly, with our excellent care these guys and gals have begun to show remarkable improvement. When our turtle vet, Dr. Harms was in last week with his long to-do list he was surprised to find out how well they were doing, and also commented on our building full of “robust turtles.” We couldn’t have been prouder. We’ve had a very long winter with very long days but now it’s paying off.
In addition to admitting strands we’re beginning to see those crazy Kemp’s who have a habit of going after the easy pickings at our local piers. Neither you nor the turtle are likely expecting to have such a close encounter so now’s a good time for quick review of what to do if you happen to hook one. Please do not yank the line out, especially if you cannot see the hook. Leave the hook in place and cut the line, leaving at least two feet of it to secure to the turtle’s shell with some tape (duct tape works well.) The pier managers can assist you with the process, and have the contact information to ensure that the turtle gets the proper follow-up care. In many cases these critters are short-term guests at our facility and after some basic first-aid can go right back home.
Last week we sent a batch of turtles to the deep blue via dive boat piloted by Captain Paul Gregory of Aquatic Safaris in Wilmington. Two large loggerheads (Eclipse and Nancy) and five greens headed out to start re-acclimating to fending for themselves. That gave us a chance shuffle turtles around in the big house. Fairly recent admit “Big Guy” has moved to Nancy’s tank; he’s one happy camper and is now on our tour line where you can get a close up of this very gentle giant and his very “manly” tail.
And speaking of tours: we have been astounded by the number of visitors who have been coming since the day we opened just a month ago. We’re open on our abbreviated schedule of Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. If we’ve been on your bucket list of things to see plan your trip now before the season starts and the lines get really long. We’ve updated our educational exhibits, and of course we have a lot of new patients to see and a gift shop full of favorite and soon-to-be favorite merchandise. Hope to see y’all soon.
And finally, nesting season has begun and our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers are walking in the wee hours of the morning looking for that first nest. No nest as of this writing but people are reporting seeing a lot of turtles just off shore. If you happen to see turtle tracks or come across one of those stranded “spring greens” please call us! Hospital contacts are Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880 and Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800. We will also pick up on the hospital line, 910-329-0222, if the call comes into us early in the day. The state of NC has a stranding hotline that picks up 24/7: 252-241-7367
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.