Volunteers are saving scores of cold-stunned
sea turtles on Hatteras....WITH
By IRENE NOLAN
Hatteras Island's climate went from balmy to Arctic almost overnight. The weather went from a month of record warmth to
temperatures plunging to freezing or below and snow showers falling on
the northern shores -- all in just a few days.
And human inhabitants of Hatteras weren't the only ones stunned by the
Mother Nature's cruel about-face. A band of volunteers have been
hard at work this week rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles along the
island's frigid and windy Pamlico Sound shoreline.
Lou Browning of Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation in Frisco,
heads up the volunteer effort on the island, along with Frank Welles,
also of Frisco. The two men have been at it for some years now,
and each year they get a little more help.
Browning said today, during a mid-day break to warm up, that islanders
and other volunteers have really stepped up this week to help save as
many of the cold-stunned turtles as possible.
About 15 or 20 trained volunteers, including students at Cape Hatteras
Secondary School, he said, have been patrolling the shorelines and
hauling turtles to safety -- it's cold and sometimes back-breaking work
when the turtles have to be moved long distances.
Other folks are finding the turtles on their property, on their walks,
or when they are commercial fishing or hunting and have been getting in
touch with Browning and Welles.
Yesterday, 81 sea turtles were sent to the Sea Turtle Assistance and
Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke
Island. Today, by mid-day, Browning said about 100 turtles had
been rescued and were headed to the STAR Center.
Browning and Welles and other Hatteras volunteers work under the
auspices of the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST), which is
based in Kill Devil Hills.
Both NEST and STAR volunteers help with the effort, which this year is
based at the Old Weather Station Building on the Back Road in Buxton.
Browning said that all but two of the turtles, rescued by mid-day
today, were endangered green turtles. There was also one
loggerhead and one Kemp's ridley sea turtle rescued.
The sea turtles -- except for the loggerheads -- usually don't nest on
the seashore, but they take a break from their long migrations to feed
and forage in the Pamlico Sound. However, they can be trapped if the
temperature falls quickly, as it has done in the past few days.
As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles derive heat from their
surroundings and when they become too cold, their metabolism slows,
prohibiting them from moving and ultimately from migrating to warmer
water. This also makes it challenging to determine whether the
cold-stunned turtles are alive or dead. If they are alive, they can
possibly be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Once a sea turtle is retrieved, it must be taken to the processing
center at the Old Weather Station where volunteers from STAR and NEST
measure it and record other important information before it can be
transported to the STAR center. Transportation also often involves
It's all a finely-tuned volunteer effort, one that Browning said has
really come together in the past several days. And, he has noted in
past interviews, saving these young turtles is vital to the survival of
Almost all of the rescued turtles have been juveniles, Browning said.
"They don't know any better," he added. "They are just swimming around
in the sound where it's warm and there's plenty of food.
"It's like they think they are in Florida," he said.
If you find a cold-stunned sea turtle or want to volunteer to help, you
can call Browning at 252-475-4217 or Welles at 252-995-2417,
FOR MORE INFORMATION
to listen to the audio of an interview with Lou Browning and Frank
Welles for the Radio Hatteras show, "To the Point." The two talk
about the work of rescuing cold-stunned turtles and its importance to
the survival of the species in the interview, which was broadcast in
Cold Stunned Sea Turtles 2016
Stunned Sea Turtles....... 81 sent to the STAR Hospital today! Thanks
to all the wonderful volunteers on Hatteras, from NEST and at the STAR
center. Also thanks to all the local residents who found, called and
brought turtles to us! Great Job! Get some sleep, crack of dawn we're
back out!Posted by Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation on Tuesday, January 5, 2016