More than 100 cold-stunned sea turtles were rescued from Bodie Island to Ocracoke during a recent cold spell that lingered from January 18 through January 22, per an update from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Most of the turtles were collected and transported to the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island by local Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) volunteers, as well as biologists from the National Seashore.
The way that N.E.S.T. and the STAR Center work together is fairly simple. When there’s a cold snap and temperatures drop, 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 returned back into the waters, after they have been treated and deemed ready for release.
The winter season is far from over, so beachgoers along the sound and ocean shorelines are advised to keep a lookout for sea turtles over the days and weeks to come, especially if another cold snap hits the Outer Banks.
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)
Sea turtles in North Carolina are protected by the Endangered Species Act and managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. For more information on NEST, and to make a donation or learn about volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.nestonline.org/.