Beach Access and Park  Issues
November 4,  2009

Volunteers needed to help stranded sea turtles this winter

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is offering two volunteer training sessions for the Sea Turtle Stranding volunteer program’s fall/winter sea turtle season. 

Under the direction of Sea Turtle Biological Technician Michelle Bogardus, the goal of the Sea Turtle Volunteer in the Park (VIP) program is to respond to “cold-stunned” stranded sea turtles along the ocean and soundside beaches of the seashore and adjacent communities. 

Volunteers are needed and will be trained to assist NPS biologists in surveying for live and dead sea turtle strandings, documentation of stranding activity, transportation and triage of live strandings, and educating the general public about sea turtle conservation practices. 

Two training sessions will be offered.  The first will be on Saturday, Nov. 7, and the second will be on Tuesday, Nov. 10.  Both training sessions will be at 10 a.m. at the Principal Keepers Quarters behind the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitors Center in Buxton. 

If individuals are interested in volunteering for this program, but are unable to make the training dates, please call 252-216-6892.

The five species of sea turtles that inhabit the ocean and soundside waters of northeastern North Carolina -- loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley and hawksbill -- are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperature.  Therefore, in cold water they do not have the ability to warm themselves and must migrate to warmer waters. 

If they do not migrate on time, or if they have additional complications that make it difficult for them to leave, they often become “cold stunned.” 

Last winter, park staff and volunteers responded to more than 100 cold-stunned turtles and, if they are found in time, it is possible to rehabilitate the animals.  Last year, 36 turtles were found alive and eventually returned to the ocean.

All five of the sea turtle species found in adjacent waters to Cape Hatteras National Seashore are federally listed as either threatened or endangered.  Volunteers may also be involved with marine mammal strandings and seal response, which typically occur during the winter months.

Weekly visitors are welcome to observe training classes, but interested VIPs are asked to commit to a minimum number of hours and may be asked to be “on call.” 

If Outer Banks residents or visitors observe a sea turtle (dead or alive), please report it.  From Nags Head north to the Virginia line, please call NEST at 252-441-1850.  From South Nags Head to Ocracoke, please call the seashore at 252-216-6892.

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