On Tuesday, December 27, the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island announced that it was temporarily closed to the public due to an influx of cold-stunned sea turtles over the holiday weekend.
“The STAR Center has received over 50 new cold-stunned sea turtle patients over the past two days,” stated the social media update. “In order to make space for all of these turtles, the STAR Center will be closed to the public.”
The rest of the exhibit rooms within the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo remain open.
The total number of live but cold-stunned sea turtles that were transferred to the STAR Center in the past several days include 47 turtles on Christmas Eve, 24 turtles on Christmas Day, and 27 turtles on Dec. 26, and most of the sea turtles that land at the STAR Center in the winter months are discovered on Hatteras Island.
When temperatures plummet on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, cold-stunned sea turtles begin to make a more regular appearance along the soundside beaches.
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 waters. This cold-stunned scenario can turn deadly, as once in an immobile state, the sea turtles can have difficulty raising their heads above water to breathe.
Local volunteers regularly monitor the Hatteras Island shorelines after a cold spell, looking for cold-stunned sea turtles in need of assistance. The volunteers primarily search for stranded turtles along the soundside, covering private property in the villages and in areas that are not routinely patrolled by the National Park Service.
The turtles are then transferred to the “sea turtle hospital” (or STAR Center) at the Manteo aquarium, where staff and volunteers provide medical care, prepare diets, and conduct nearly constant cleaning until the patients are cleared for release back into the wild by staff veterinarians
How You Can Help:
- If you spot a cold-stunned sea turtle on Hatteras Island, call 252-216-6892 (National Park Service, Cape Hatteras National Seashore)
- If you spot a cold-stunned sea turtle north of Oregon Inlet, call 252-441-8622 (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles or N.E.S.T.)