Volunteers and donations are needed to help sea turtles in the
By LOU BROWNING
Each winter on the Outer Banks, many sea turtles die from a condition
known as “cold stun.” This results from water temperatures
rapidly dropping below 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sea turtles cannot acclimate to these fast-falling temperatures,
and they become sluggish and lose their ability to swim. If
cannot swim, then they cannot get their heads above water to breathe,
and they drown.
A lot of emphasis is put on protecting the sea turtle nesting sites on
the beaches in the summer, but it is just as important to help the
adult turtles in the winter. Every time one adult is saved
drowning, it is equivalent to saving 1,000 turtle hatchlings.
This is because only one sea turtle hatchling in more than 1,000 lives
to the breeding age of about 25 years and older.
Cold-stunned sea turtles wash up on the ocean beach and the
soundside. When they are found, they are transported to
Island Veterinary Clinic for screening and are then taken to the
rehabilitation facility at the North Carolina Aquarium in
This facility is run by the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST),
a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection
of the habitats and migration routes of sea turtles and other marine
animals on the Outer Banks from the Virginia border to Oregon Inlet.
We need volunteers who will help save cold-stunned sea turtles this
Some duties require special training and permitting because sea turtles
are a federally-protected species. However, you can still help by doing
nothing more that looking around the soundside on chilly mornings!
First, we need you to let us know where these sea turtles are.
On cold mornings after a temperature drop, several volunteers on
Hatteras and Ocracoke kayak or walk along the soundside looking for
live turtles in the grass line at the edge of the water.
If the wind is from the northeast, we need volunteers to cover from
Buxton to Ocracoke village. If the wind is from the northwest, we need
to cover from Buxton to Oregon Inlet. This is a huge territory for a
handful of volunteers to cover, so the more we have, the more likely
cold-stunned turtles will be found and, hopefully, saved.
People who live on the soundside on Hatteras or Ocracoke can simply
look around their property to see if any turtles have washed
If you find a turtle that you think may possibly be alive, please call
(252) 216-6892. If it is obviously dead, we still need to know where it
is, so call (252) 995-6968.
If you want to be able to touch or move the turtles, you will need to
get training first. Training in Buxton is tentatively
for Tuesday, Nov. 9. For information about training, please call (252)
995-6968. If you find any stranded turtles above Bodie Island, please
call NEST at (252) 441-8622.
We also need assistance in transporting the live sea turtles to
The sooner these cold animals get to a veterinarian, the better their
chances for survival. There are certain procedures for
transporting live turtles in order to keep them from going into
shock. Training and permitting is required before you can
And, finally, we need monetary donations.
We need money to pay for medical treatment and rehabilitation
expenses. Not including transportation or food, each turtle
at least $300 to diagnose and treat. Last winter we
more than 50 turtles. NEST's tab was more than
$15,000. Donations are always needed.
To learn more, please visit the NEST website at http://www.nestonline.org
Browning is a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator who runs
Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation in Frisco. You can
his website at http://www.hiwr.us. His work is also financed