North Carolina has had a devastating few weeks when it comes to sea turtles, prompting officials at the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute in Lewes, Delaware to take extra precaution.
Executive Director of MERR, Suzanne Thurman, says in just a few short days, North Carolina has had around 175 turtles wash ashore, suffering from ‘cold-stun.’
Although many sea turtles have left the Delmarva area by November, Thurman says there is still a chance for some stragglers who could be affected by the cold temperatures.
“Sea turtles are cold blooded— they need external warmth to help their bodies function,” Thurman said. “When it drops down to the 50’s, they can get hypothermia, turn comatose and it could turn into pneumonia.”
Cold-stunned sea turtles usually appear in the northern hemisphere, however, officials from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and MERR say this is the time of year when turtles would begin washing ashore as freezing conditions become more sustained. Thurman says the recent cold snap has kept officials on their toes.
Over the past few years, the organization has seen very little cold-stunned turtles but that is not the case for Matt Klepeisz of VAMSC. Klepeisz says they average about 10 cold-stunned turtles a year off the Virginia coast.
Although Thurman has yet to receive a call for a sighting., she encourages anyone who spots a beached sea turtle to call the 24 hour rescue line at (302) 228-5029.