Waters are warming up and sea turtles are heading back to our beaches. Our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers will officially clock in around sunrise on May 1 for what will hopefully be a good nesting season. Although we don’t usually see our first turtle mama until a few weeks into the month there’s always a chance that an outlier might want to check us out earlier. If you’re on the beach early in the morning be sure to wave to and thank our dedicated early risers who are easily identified by their special T-shirt. And you can help by reporting any turtle tracks you might see to our Beach Director, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880.

Back at the ranch (turtle hospital) we have a full house of very active rehabilitated turtles who just know in their hearts that they are ready to get gone. They’re all fat and happy after a winter of lazing around their tanks chowing down on fish and squid, and for our green turtles a side of assorted veggies. “Beasley turtles” have a reputation in the sea turtle world of being the fattest turtles at release, but since they’ll soon be looking for dinner on their own we like to give them a head start – just in case.

We’re in the process of scheduling boat rides to warmer water for most of our smaller turtles, as well as most of the “Who” loggerheads that came in over the winter. But first out will be “Eugenie,” a large lady loggerhead who came to us two years ago with a very dire prognosis. Our dedicated staff spent hundreds, probably thousands of hours working on her care and now she’s ready to go. The smaller greens and Kemp’s will follow in the next few weeks.

But not everybody has their release papers from Dr. Harms, at least not yet. Two of the “Who’s” didn’t make the cut. And we just admitted a half-dozen turtles over the past few weeks including a small Kemp’s that somehow managed to survive a trip through a dredge pipe — not your basic Disney ride. More about these guys, or maybe girls later.

If you want to see a lot of turtles, and not see a really long line in front of you now is the best time to visit. We’re open for tours on our short schedule of two days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. until June. And please contact your local state representatives to ask them to support HB169 that would make our loggerheads the official saltwater reptile of North Carolina.

 

 

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