Cold stunned sea turtles being treated and released at the NC Aquarium

FORT FISHER, NC (WWAY) — Last month the Cape Fear saw several days with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s, helping to cool the ocean water into the lower 50s.

North Carolina Aquarium Curator Julie Smith says sea turtles rely on warm water to regulate their body temperature and are greatly impacted when water temps drop.

“Occasionally we get that really cold snap happen suddenly and the turtles aren’t able to move offshore fast enough and they get what’s called cold stunned,” Smith said. “They get too cold and lethargic to move.”

The NC Aquarium currently has two juvenile sea turtles that were found bobbing near the surface last month.

Smith says younger turtles are affected more, with rehabilitation time ranging from weeks to months.

“Some turtles are just a little quiet and tired and cold and just need to be warmed up and fed,” Smith said. “Some need some medications.”

No matter how long it takes, Smith says they treat turtles until they’re ready to be released.

“At that point we are just waiting for a good opportunity to get them offshore,” Smith added. “Inshore waters are so cool they need to go out towards the Gulf Stream, which can be anywhere from 30 to 60 miles offshore or even farther depending on the time of year.”

Smith says this is a recurring problem each year but that they’ll continue to work hard to help the turtles.

She says the Aquarium has cared for dozens of turtles over the years including 2 that have been treated and released this year.

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