As cold-blooded animals, sea turtles don’t do well when there is a sudden plunge in the temperature. If the thermometer reading gradually drops, they can usually find warmer waters and swim there.
But, in what has become an almost annual event, as a cold front roars across the Outer Banks, temperatures drop precipitously and sea turtles experience their form of hyperthermia—cold stun.
Earlier this month—just last week, actually—we had record high temperatures.
Then the bottom fell out and sea turtles are coming ashore, barely able to move.
At last report there have been more than 100 cold-stunned turtles reported, almost all of them on Hatteras Island.
Luckily there is help unhand for turtles.
How the Sea Turtles are helped
N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles), an Outer Banks nonprofit, has become somewhat of an expert at how to rescue cold-stunned turtles.
Working in coordination with the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, turtles are moved quickly to the Roanoke Island Aquarium. At the Aquarium, the STAR (Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation) has the facilities and expertise to save the turtles.
The first part of the journey from Hatteras Island, though, has begins at the Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation. The facility specializes in bird rescue, especially raptors, but is fully licensed to work with almost all animals.
After logging the turtle in, measuring them and making sure they’re strong enough to make the journey, the turtles are transported to the STAR Center.
In this particular episode, the turtles have been simply washing up on the beach, indicating they are too weak to swim. In that state, they are in danger of drowning.
Although this year’s episode is fairly large, it pales in comparison to the 2016 event where some 250 cold-stunned sea turtles were housed in the Aquarium’s STAR Center.
Amazing what can be seen on an Outer Banks beach. Stay with Brindley Beach Vacations for a while and see what you can find.