More than 70 sea turtles that were being treated at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center have been transported from the Manteo facility and released back into the ocean, per an update from the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
“It’s been a minute since we updated everyone on the STAR Center patients,” stated the aquarium in a Jan. 31 update. “Big things happened this morning as N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) volunteers picked up 77 turtles in the wee hours of the morning from STAR Center.”
Five of the turtles were transferred to the aquarium’s sister facilities – the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and NC. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
The remaining 72 turtles from the STAR Center were delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, where they were then loaded up for release at sea.
The 2023/2023 winter season has been a busy one for the STAR Center and N.E.S.T. volunteers, as more than 200 sea turtles were rescued around the Christmas holiday alone, and an additional 37 sea turtles were rescued during a mid-January cold spell.
When there’s a cold snap and temperatures drop, N.E.S.T. volunteers patrol the soundside beaches of Hatteras Island looking for cold-stunned sea turtles that have washed ashore. As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles derive heat from their surroundings, and when they become too cold, their metabolism slows, prohibiting them from moving to warmer waters. Because they are unable to move, they have difficulty raising their heads above water to breathe and can eventually drown.
The National Park Service (NPS) also patrols the Hatteras and Ocracoke Island beaches, primarily along the oceanfront, as the soundside terrain is mostly private property.
Once the sea turtles have been found, they are brought to a staging site where they are transported to the STAR Center for medical attention. Eventually, they are released back into the waters.
Public reports of stranded sea turtles also assist National Park Service staff and N.E.S.T. volunteers. With an upcoming cold snap expected over the weekend, beachgoers are advised to be on the lookout for cold-stunned sea turtles throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, and to report sightings as needed.
If you spot a sea turtle on land this time of year, please call one of the stranding hotlines with your location:
- On Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands: 252-216-6892 (National Park Service, Cape Hatteras National Seashore)
- North of Oregon Inlet: 252-441-8622 N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles)
- For more information on N.E.S.T., and to make a donation or learn about volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.nestonline.org/.