Every year, right after Labor Day, Dr. Craig Harms brings his fourth-year veterinary residents and students to our hospital for hands-on work with our patients.
It’s something his students are looking forward to, maybe not so much our turtles. But in the end, many of them go home. Thus, a few days to have each scute, each scale and each palm examined, and sometimes their “interior”, are worth the price.
When Snooki’s turn came, it took a village for this to happen, with the “villagers” moving into her house because there was no way for her to leave her tank.
“Snooki’s Big Day” began with a little trip to dreamland where she would hopefully doze off for the next few hours. First of all, the weighing. You can’t train a sea turtle to just climb the ladder, so you have to bring the scale to the turtle and then get the turtle to cooperate in some way. It was no small feat to get this zaftig body where it needed to be. In the end, she scored 310 pounds.
Then things got really interesting, again at least for the students and our volunteers. Snooki was about to become a blood donor. This is not the first time that Dr Harms has asked one of our healthy patients to donate some blood for his turtle blood bank. Snooki’s blood could be the difference between life or death for a sea turtle in need of a transfusion. While asleep, she underwent a complete physical exam and then underwent minor cosmetic surgery.
If Snooki lived in the ocean, she would munch on a lot of shellfish, corals, and other things that would break our teeth if we tried to eat them. Its large mouth is made for crunching. In fact, when she arrived from New Jersey, she had made her own lunch, a big box of whelks.
In our hospital, she has developed a preference for one of the sweetest things we have, squid, which we stuff with fish in the hope that she will get some protein. As a result, its beak can become jagged and grow a bit larger than is optimal. The bite block, flashlight, and a Dremel came out. Snooki now has a beautiful smile, in addition to his beautiful personality. And Dr Harms declared her to be in good health.
We still have a few nests that haven’t hatched, so keep an eye out for finicky hatchlings or distressed turtles. If you find a newborn on the beach, carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with sand and a small amount of water – barely cover the fins. Then call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer, at 910-470-2880. If it is not available, you can call the hospital during business hours: 910-329-0222. We will take the information and one of our zone coordinators will meet with you to pick up the newborn and refer him to us for follow-up. The North Carolina State Hotline for Stranded, Sick and Injured Turtles is 252-241-7367. The status number responds 24/7. Please note that all of our work with sea turtles, in the hospital and on the beach, is licensed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 21ST05.
Fall tours continue! Until October, we are open four days a week, Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The admission process remains the same; you must plan and purchase your tickets in advance for a specific day and time through our website, www.seaturtlehospital.org. And we demand that masks be worn inside the building for everyone 5 years and older – no exceptions. We still have patients looking forward to your visit before the winter shutdown. Maybe Snooki will even show you his new smile.