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Hundreds of Cold-Stunned Turtles are Stranding in North Carolina

posted: 01/07/16
by: Danny Clemens
Green sea turtle swimming
Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Veterinarians across North Carolina are providing emergency medical care to hundreds of sea turtles found stranded on area beaches in recent days.

Authorities say that the cold-stunned turtles are suffering following dramatic dips in temperature, with some areas of North Carolina experiencing up to a 30-degree difference in air temperature over a series of days.

When air temperature drops rapidly, water temperature in shallow areas can make similar drastic dips before turtles are able to seek refuge in warmer areas.

Related: Aquarium Rehabilitates Sea Turtle That Died Twice

"Because sea turtles are cold-blooded animals, they assume the temperature of their surroundings," NOAA Fisheries explains. "When sea turtles are exposed to frigid water temperatures [...] their circulatory systems can slow to the point that they become cold-stunned and unable to swim or function properly."

Symptoms of cold stunning include a dangerously low heart rate, poor circulation, pneumonia and shock. Many cold-stunned sea turtles are essentially paralyzed and rendered unable to escape to warmer areas.

Cold Stunned Sea Turtles 2016

Cold 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

 

Since the beginning of the year, veterinarians from North Carolina Aquariums, Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, North Carolina State University and other organizations have responded to more than 200 reports of immobilized cold-stunned green and Kemp's ridley sea turtles across the state.

Cold-stunned sea turtles are warmed gradually until their body temperature rebounds. Some animals are also treated for infection, malnutrition and dehydration sustained during their period of incapacitation.

Upon receiving a clean bill of health, the turtles will be released into warmer waters.

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