How about a “honey” of a story for Christmas week, and no cold stuns were harmed in this one.
Back in June the fishing was good and the turtles were taking advantage of the easy pickings along the inshore waters. Regular readers know by now that it always seems to be the Kemp’s Ridleys who get themselves in trouble by eating anything dangling in front of them. This little critter was no exception.
On June 13th she was hooked through the tongue down in Ocean Isle Beach in Brunswick County and arrived at our hospital with the hook still in place. Luckily our Director, Jean has plenty of experience in quickly and successfully removing almost any hook that she can see and get to. This was a fairly minor surgery and soon the offending hook was out and saved “for posterity” in the patient file.
But, and there’s a big but, there was a very large and very deep gash on the plastron, the belly. That was extremely concerning as pretty much all the important viscera are floating around in there and prone to serious infection when exposed. Luckily radiographs and a more thorough exam showed no damage other than the deep and nasty wound that we knew was going to take a very long time to resolve. And now our patient had a name, “Honey Bee.”
Honey Bee was put on the usual protocol of fluids and antibiotics along with a robust diet of her preferred food, squid heads. Her daily treatment was quite prolonged as it included about 30 minutes of Honey Bee reclining on her back, her gash slathered with honey which we sometimes use for treating open wounds – it’s magical in its antibiotic and healing properties.
Once her wound started to close Honey Bee was moved into the big house, Sea Turtle Bay to complete her rehabilitation. Things were looking up, until she quit eating. It’s not unusual for a turtle that’s been upgraded to a tank in the big house to need a day or two to acclimate to that environment which is polar opposite of Sick Bay. We offered food, and waited, and offered food, and waited and finally started harassing her a bit to try to get her to eat. She retaliated by going on a hunger strike.
Honey Bee was known to our staff to be a bit of a diva right from the beginning, always coming at us with open mouth and flailing her head from side to side, but this was taking her “diva-ness” to a new level. In an attempt to get her to eat we would move her every morning into the small black tank she lived in while in Sick Bay. Eventually we got her to eat, as long as she was moved every morning into that black tank where she immediately inhaled her squid heads. Two minutes later she was carted back to her big tank. We have no idea what’s going on in that critter’s head, and I’m actually embarrassed to say that she has us thoroughly trained to literally cater to her.
Honey Bee is on track for a June 2020 release. All we can say to her when we send her home is good luck finding a small black tank where cleaned and trimmed squid heads are served to you every morning!
Please bear with us as we keep repeating the process for handling a cold stun, a turtle exposed to the elements during frigid weather that is not moving or appears to be dead. It might just be cold stunned. If it’s a little guy gently pick it up and relocate it to a car, garage or other unheated area of your home. Do not try to warm it up – the shock of a quick temperature change could send it into shock. We’ll send our staff out to rescue any and all turtles, big and small when you give us the word. Call one of the following numbers if you suspect you’ve come across a local cold-stunned turtle: 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
We are now closed to the public until April of 2020. Thank you for supporting us. See you next year!
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.