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  • Writer's pictureStar Sota

Sea Turtle Hospital News

May is already shaping up to be a busy month for us, and the first turtle mama hasn’t even set a flipper on Topsail yet. In case you’re visiting or are new to the area, May 1st was the official first day of turtle nesting season. We know there are moms out there just waiting for the right moment to literally start “digging in” to lay their nests. No nests or tracks have been reported as of this writing but wouldn’t it be great if we have our first verified nest on Mother’s Day – flippers crossed. I’ll have more info on nesting etiquette as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or rather at our local piers and beaches, the early arrivals continue to take advantage of tasty snacks that are just dangling out in front of them. Kemp’s are notorious for a cheap date with a shrimp but this year it’s the greens that are surprising us. In general, pier or beach caught turtles are short term roomers with us with most of them coming in with visible hooks that can be carefully removed by our Director, Kathy Z. If an in-house radiograph shows a hook somewhere else in our patient they have an office visit with our vet, Dr. Harms at CMAST in Morehead City where the hook(s) are removed either with specialized equipment or surgical intervention. Sometimes he recommends just letting time, and the hook pass through naturally.

A good example of what to do if you happen to find a turtle at the end of your hook is recently admitted “Sodalite.” This cute, chubby little green was caught off a local pier, and when she arrived we were happy to see they had handled her perfectly. She had a small (not stainless steel, thankfully) hook snagged at the corner of her mouth, with the shrimp still attached. They left the hook, leader and line in place, cutting the line long enough that we could still see it and keep it outside of the turtle. And she wasn’t banged up from being hauled through the air. A big thank you to SeaView Pier for assisting in this rescue.

Kathy was able to remove the hook once we convinced Sodalite to open her mouth wide enough to insert the bite block. She clearly was proud of her catch and didn’t want to let her lunch go to waste. Her physical exam, radiograph and bloodwork were excellent and after a hearty breakfast she was released the next morning.

May tours are Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM – 2 PM. We will not be open Memorial Day weekend. Tickets must be purchased in advance through our website You can visit the gift shop during those hours without taking the tour. Please note that utility and road work Charlie Medlin Dr. will continue for the next two months and delays in getting to the hospital are very likely. Please plan accordingly to arrive on time for your scheduled tour.

In addition to hooked and debilitated turtles keep your eyes peeled for nesting mothers and turtle tracks. Our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers will be out every morning at the crack of dawn looking for that first set of tracks. If you come across any sick, injured or nesting turtles immediately call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910- 470-2880. If she is not available, call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329- 0222. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252- 241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. All conservation work for endangered sea turtles at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05NCWildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05.

Sodalite hook removal | Sodalite upon arrival at the hospital


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