What's new at the sea turtle hospital?

Word is out that our magnificent beaches are open and ready for visitors. The people who spent last year “going to Carolina in my mind” are now here in person, along with the most celebrated visitors to Topsail, our sea turtle mamas.
Nesting season officially began on May 1 and will continue though the end of August. The people you see out bounding along the sand early in the mornings are our Topsail Turtle Patrol volunteers, keeping their eyes peeled for signs of those very distinctive tracks. It’s always a bit of a contest to see who will find the first nest but as of this writing nobody has hit the lottery. That may change by the time you read this. There’s no way to predict what kind of numbers we’ll end up with this year but the past few years have been quite encouraging. Since it takes about thirty-five years for a loggerhead lady to lay her first nest we’d like to think that the conservation effort that Jean and her daughter Karen pioneered back in the 1980’s will continue to bear fruit – er – hatchlings.
And now that the island is opening again the piers are filling with anglers ready to get back to fishing. And where there’s bait there are hungry turtles looking for an easy lunch. And for some reason it’s always those darn the Kemp’s. Once the word gets out that there’s easy pickings they start to come in fast and furious. Last year they were being snagged so quickly that we no sooner got one in, “de-hooked” and settled in a tank than we’re getting another phone call with one or more en-route. Veteran anglers pretty much know the drill by now, but if it’s your first close-up with a hooked turtle the two most important things to remember are: DO NOT pull out the hook, especially if they appear to have swallowed it; and please leave about two feet of line attached to the hook(s) before cutting away any of your gear. The pier managers can assist you with the process and they have the contact information to ensure that the turtle gets the proper follow-up care at our hospital.

In many cases we can turn these unfortunate critters around pretty quickly. If they have not swallowed a hook (or two) it’s a matter of removing it, treating it topically and then observing them for a day or two for any unusual behavior or symptoms. We’ve already released two so far this season, including Kemp’s “Joyful Mama” who enjoyed (well, maybe not enjoyed) her few days of having a breakfast of yummy squid served to her every morning. We didn’t even get a good-bye wave as she sprinted on those magnificent flippers into the surf on a chilly, grey morning. Not sure she even heard us yell “Please don’t go back towards the pier” she was rocketing away so fast!

As usual we’re asking our locals and visitors to be on the lookout for any turtle tracks and/or nesting mamas. Please report any turtle in any kind of distress to Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880 or the hospital at: 910-329-0222 for pick-up and follow-up care at our facility. NC Wildlife Resources also has an Emergency hotline number that picks up 24/7: 252-241-7367.
And good news – we’re now open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through May, and we’re planning to open for additional days beginning in June. Please check our website www.seaturtlehospital.org for visiting hours and a new admission process with prepaid on-line ticketing, for a reserved time. No more long lines! See you soon.