There’s a song that says “don’t let the green grass fool you.” Around here the same applies to the weather. This winter has been, in a word, weird. With the continuing warm and sunny days one might assume that any turtles still hanging out around here have been enjoying it just as much as we have. In fact the opposite is true. Healthy sea turtles pick up on cues and know to start moving to warmer water for the winter. So when they don’t it’s usually because they are already debilitated in some way and just can’t get their carapaces in gear to get out of Dodge.


Cold stun greens have been dribbling in, and we got another “local” turtle just last week. It was d j vu all over again on Tuesday because I just happened to pick up the call, and the latest victim was again up at North Topsail. Some very alert people on a beach stroll observed the little guy stranded above the tide line. As they got closer they saw that he was very much alive but obviously not in the best of shape. He was covered with a variety of epibiota (algae and barnacles) and who knows what else under all that sand and dirt.


Luckily Tuesday was one of the warmer days with temps in the mid 60’s, and because it was damp and foggy the little guy wasn’t out there baking in the sun for hours. Once again we sent our Uber driver (volunteer Doug) north to collect our latest victim who was waiting for transport just a few miles north of the high rise by a beach access.


Arriving back at the hospital we completed the usual paper work, the official stranding report, which includes scanning for any tag(s) along with weight and measurements. His admit temperature was right around 68; cold, but we’ve seen much worse. So again he had to spend some time in our “waiting room” (dry docked on a towel in his tank in the coolest place we could find) until he gradually warmed up enough to be given a bath and moved into Sick Bay. There our director, Jean would examine him for any injuries not obvious under all that algae and put him on our cold stun protocol.


Our staff has been working very long days with over 50 turtles in house, but as we were leaving a little before 5 p.m. Jean officially named our newest admit “Taco Tuesday.” We suspect that it may have had something to do with her arrival on a day when we happened to be enjoying a lunch break consisting of Mexican foods, including of course tacos. Or maybe not.


We’ve been very heartened that locals and visitors have been on the lookout for stranded turtles and have known what to do when they find one. But just in case, here’s the scoop: just because a turtle is not moving it doesn’t necessarily mean it is 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 during normal hospital hours. 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. There’s lots of things to do over the winter months (like building maintenance, exhibit updates, etc.) in addition to taking care of our patients. Thank you for supporting us. See you next year!


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