North Carolina Wildlife helps rescue cold-stunned sea turtles

PINE KNOLL SHORES, N.C. (WITN) – The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is working to rescue several sea turtles that became cold-stunned after a cold front moved through North Carolina in late November that caused cold water conditions in the Pamlico Sound.

Officials say that North Carolina’s estuaries provide excellent foraging habitats for juvenile sea turtles, however, in winter months these shallow waters can suddenly drop in temperature over a single day, and sea turtles that have not moved to warmer waters may become hypothermic or cold-stunned, making them inert and causing them to float at the surface of the water.

According to officials, 12 smaller sea turtles including green, Kemp’s Ridley, and one hawksbill, were found by volunteers on the sound-side shoreline of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands after winds pushed the stunned turtles onto the shore there

Officials say the turtles were taken to the STAR Center at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island, where they are being rehabilitated. The vet team there says that all of the turtles are doing well.

Officials say that the turtles will be released as soon as they are deemed healthy.

During the 2022-23 cold-stun season in North Carolina, officials say that there were 367 live and 443 dead turtles recovered during cold-stunning events.

The live turtles were taken to the STAR Center at N.C. Aquarium Roanoke Island, N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City for rehabilitation.

Officials say that nearly all the treated cold-stunned turtles were released following brief treatment thanks to help from the U.S. Coast Guard, Duke University R/V [research vessel] Shearwater, UNC Wilmington R/V Seahawk, and other research boats from N.C. State University-CMAST and the Coonamessett Farm Foundation.

Visit seaturtle.org for more information.

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