107 rehabilitated sea turtles released by the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon

[Courtesy N.C. Aquariums]

The North Carolina Aquariums were thrilled recently to release a large number of rehabilitated cold-stunned sea turtles from December and January stranding events.

The turtles were transported to U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon for release Tuesday, thanks to the help of volunteers from Network for Endangered Sea Turtle (N.E.S.T.) and Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (KBSTRRC) along with biologists from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Rehabilitated turtles from the N.C. Aquariums and KBSTRRC were released.

Included in the 107 sea turtles released were N.C.’s most common species: loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley. Most of these turtles were brought to rehabilitation centers because of cold-stunning, which occurs when the water temperature drops quickly before the turtles can migrate to warmer water. This condition primarily affects juveniles of the species.

The release made some room in the Aquarium facilities as they continue to rehabilitate cold-stunned turtles and expect that more may arrive. Currently, the Sea Turtle Assistance & Rehabilitation Center (STAR) at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island is caring for 79 cold-stunned patients. The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores has eight cold-stunned turtles, and N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is caring for six.

“Each year, various stakeholders are engaged in the response to cold-stunned sea turtles in NC, including volunteer groups such as N.E.S.T. and KBSTRRC, state organizations such as NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine and N.C. Aquariums, federal agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Matthew Godfrey, sea turtle biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “The successful rescue, rehabilitation, and release of cold-stunned sea turtles in N.C. is possible only with the ongoing efforts of these partners.”

Sea turtles strand on North Carolina beaches throughout the year. If you find a stranded sea turtle in North Carolina call 252-241-7367 or your local stranding response team.