TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Just as the cold has been affecting many of us this season, it's also effecting the turtle populations off the coast of North Carolina. The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Topsail Island has heaters and blankets for sea turtles that have been cold-stunned.
Sea turtles are marine reptiles. That means they are cold-blooded and have no way of regulating their own body temperature. In other words, they can't warm themselves up.
"It's probably a case of just reluctance plus inexperience that causes them to not go when the water temperature drops as suddenly as this," Sea Turtle Hospital volunteer Karen Sota said.
Sota has been volunteering for 12 years at the Sea Turtle Hospital. She said the hospital was ready for this year's cold stun because of the sudden drop in water temperatures.
"It was never a matter of if for us, because it happens every year," she said. "It was a matter of just when it was gonna hit us and how bad it was gonna be, and it's bad this year."
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is coordinating the rescue effort. All cold-stunned turtles are assessed at their center and then sent to various locations like aquariums. The ones in worse shape come to the Sea Turtle Hospital. So far, five have arrived.
Sota said she loves sea turtles and gives her time to care for them because they are a critical part of the ecosystem.
"No species should ever die out," Sota said. "We're not a race that should let a species go extinct."
Turtle experts say if you see a turtle who appears dead, immediately take it out of the environment that it's in and place it in a semi-heated area such as a garage or laundry room and immediately call Wildlife Emergency at (252) 241-7367. For more information on the Sea Turtle Hospital call (910) 328-3377 or visit http://www.seaturtlehospital.org/.