Turtle rescue center unable to host visitors during pandemic and bring in needed donations


SURF CITY, NC (WWAY) — The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center is closed to visitors this summer due to the Coronavirus but a number of volunteers are staying busy helping to preserve and protect sea turtle nests, nesting females and hatchlings.

Each morning, a dedicated team of volunteers walk some 26 miles of Topsail Island to ensure all the nests are recorded.

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“Right now, there are 61 verified loggerhead nests so far on the island as well as a possible green turtle nest,” said Jean Beasley, executive director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.

“We are very excited about that and we have 45 turtles in the turtle hospital,” Beasley said.

According to the Associated Press, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources reports a healthy number of rare loggerhead turtles are nesting on Georgia beaches but that’s not necessarily the case here in North Carolina.

“The more you go toward warmer water, the more turtles you’re going to get,” Beasley said. “They really like warm water and beaches.”

The turtle nesting season in North Carolina is shorter. Florida and Georgia start several weeks ahead of North Carolina.

“So, they’re always going to get that bigger number,” she said.

Sea turtles are temperature-dependent sex determined (TSD) which means the temperature of embryonic/larval development determine the sex of the offspring.

“The warmer the nest, the more females there are and the cooler the nests the more males there are within that same nest,” Beasley said.

“North Carolina is near the north end of the nesting area, so hopefully, our job is to produce more males,” Beasley said. “So, Florida couldn’t do without us.”

During a typical summer, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center would have lots of visitors. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no one is allowed inside the facility except workers and volunteers.

“It certainly has impacted us in a very, very negative way along with all of our local businesses our local tourists who come to visit and our residents, we’re all in this together,” Beasley said.

In a normal summer, they would welcome about 1,200 visitors daily at the turtle hospital.

“That puts us in a category, which following the directives which are put in place for our protection, we are not able to open to the public,” she said. “We are all volunteers, we keep the program going but with no income coming in, that’s how we buy the medicines, pay the light bill and do all those things that are necessary to keep us running.”

She says its been tough this year like many other people impacted by the Coronavirus.

Click here if you would like make a monetary donation to the nonprofit. If you see a nesting, sick or injured sea turtle on Topsail Island, call Terry Meyer or Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800. The North Carolina hotline for sea turtle activity is 252-241-7367.