Posted by admin | 03.06.2013 | Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital

A Day at the Sea Turtle Hospital


The sun rises early as a team of volunteers and interns (coffee in hand) make their way to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The center, nestled along the sound side of the island, is currently caring for more injured sea turtles than it ever has before with 58 patients suffering from a variety of injuries and illnesses.

The hospital’s patient index includes both a variety of sea turtle species – Kemp’s ridleys, loggerheads, and greens – and a variety of physical ailments – some boat propeller wounds, fishing gear entanglement or ingestion, and infections. But at this time of year the hospital is mainly caring for cold-stunned turtles from up and down the East Coast.


Cold-stunning occurs when water temperatures drop causing the ectothermic sea turtles caught inshore to become hypothermic. In the ocean these turtles may appear nonresponsive; they are alive, but their body temperatures are so low they lose the ability to function. Cold-stunned turtles will most likely die in the wild; thus they are often brought to the Sea Turtle Hospital where there they are nursed back to health by a well-trained team of veterinarians, interns, and volunteers.

A day at Jean’s facility starts with preparing breakfast (for the turtles, not the people!). Pounds of fish are diced, boxes of squids are de-penned, crabs are unshelled, and the heads and tails are removed from bags of shrimp.  Each turtle gets individually prepared portions of their favorite food (yes! they can be picky eaters too). Staff members will drop a few pieces of “breakfast” into each tank, where the waiting patient vigorously snaps up their first few fishy bites. After another twenty minutes later they receive their final portion. Any turtle struggling to feed themselves will be assisted by a team member armed with a bowl of seafood delights and patience.


As the very full turtles enjoy a nice relaxing post-meal float, the staff gets to work; washing dishes, folding towels, checking water conditions, preparing medication, changing filters, and scooping out any floating particles. Then midmorning baths commence as each turtle’s tank is drained and cleaned. Staff members get right in the tanks with the big guys giving them a nice soapy rub down followed by a clean rinse as the tank is completely wiped out and disinfected. The little ones are transported to the bathing station where a team of two gives them a bubbly once over and rinse.

During bathing time each turtle is evaluated, topical medication are applied, and progress in recorded on their daily chart. Tanks are then refilled with warm salt water and the staff starts the endless task of washing, folding, and putting away a mountain of linens. By now its mid-afternoon and the turtles are content under the watchful eye of staff members who are ready to start the process all over the very next day!


The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital was founded by Jean Beasley, one of Animal Planet’s Heroes of the Year. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization staffed entirely by volunteers and interns. The hospital receives no federal funding and relies solely on donations to maintain both food and medical supplies, as well as to pay all operational costs. Jean’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release all species of sick and injured turtles while educating the public on the plight of these endangered animals.

It is her dedication to these ancient mariners and her desire to educate that has led to the creation and success of Sea Turtle Camp.

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