What's new at the sea turtle hospital?

Sea Turtle Hospital News

Nesting season officially ended on Aug. 31 with a big green mama turtle getting in just under the wire. With a typical incubation period of around 60 days, that means our beach volunteers will be sitting at her nest waiting for her babies around Halloween, or later.

Even though your chances of seeing a mama nesting are pretty much gone there is another component of the circle of life that’s just as interesting and done early in the evening – a nest analysis.

A minimum of seventy-two hours after the main hatch Topsail Turtle Project volunteers gently begin excavating the nest and removing the contents. So, what’s likely to be in there after the main hatch? Shells of turtles that have successfully hatched; unhatched eggs; live hatchlings (the ones that didn’t hear the alarm and slept through the main hatch or had difficulty making their way out on their own) and sadly, deceased turtles.

Contents are carefully separated and the process of collecting and recording data for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission begins. They count the number of hatched shells, which is different from the emerged number. A hatched shell does not necessarily mean the baby made it out alive. That can happen for several reasons: over-washing or compacting from heavy rain or high tides or predatory activity by an opportunistic crab. The unhatched shells are examined and candled to see if they might still be viable.

If it’s determined that there is a possibility of it hatching successfully it’s carefully set aside for safe reburial. All remaining contents are returned to the egg chamber and buried.

An analysis is a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about our sea turtles and to ask questions in a more relaxed atmosphere and you’re welcome to join the group.

Please continue to be our additional eyes for any late nesting mamas, hatchings or turtles in distress of any kind. With nests hatching all over the island it would be easy to miss one of the little guys who didn’t hear the alarm clock and leave the nest with his siblings. If you find a hatchling on the beach carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with some sand and a very small amount of water - barely cover the flippers. With this extreme heat it’s important that the little critter not bake in the sun for hours.

Then call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. If she is not available, you may call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. We will take the information and one of our area coordinators will meet you to retrieve the hatchling and refer it to us for follow-up. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. Please note that all our work with sea turtles, at the hospital and on the beach, is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 21ST05.

Hospital tour schedule has changed! Beginning Sept. 8 through October will we be open four days a week, Wednesdays through Saturdays from Noon – 4 PM. The admission process remains the same; you must schedule and purchase your tickets in advance for a specific day and time through our website, www.seaturtlehospital.org. And we still require masks to be worn inside the building for everyone five years of age and over – no exceptions. Visit us soon, many of our patients are completing their rehab and are just waiting for Dr. Harms to give them his blessing for their release.