Nonprofits helping animals see an uptick in patients due to winter weather

CAPE FEAR AREA, NC (WWAY) — Across the Cape Fear, agencies that help animals in distress have been busy due to the recent winter storms and bitterly cold temperatures.

Sea turtles and certain species of birds, like pelicans, have been taken in by nonprofits like SkyWatch Bird Rescue and Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center. Many are of the reptiles being taken in this winter are being treated for cold stunning, which happens when they’re unable to escape cold water or air, creating a condition similar to hypothermia.

The executive director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center says the winter storms have blown more sea turtles inland, which has them seeing an increase in the number of turtles needing help.

“Some of them just kind of get trapped near a shore or they’re up foraging in the estuaries where it’s warmer, and then all of a sudden it starts to get to cold for them and they get severely hypothermic or cold-stunned,’ said Kathy Zagzebski, Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center executive director.

Sky Watch Bird rescue has seen an increase in birds needing to be treated due to the cold weather leading to lack of food, dehydration, and cold-stunning.

“They kind of end up in weird places, where people are finding them in their backyard, in their driveway, or the side of the road, because they’re flying around and literally just run out of gas, and come down wherever they come down,” said Amelia Mason, SkyWatch Bird Rescue founder and director.

Both leaders of the nonprofits explained how cold-stunning can impact the health of the animals.

“They stop eating, their heart rate slows down, their respiration rate slows down. They often have secondary medical conditions. Many come in with pneumonia, sometimes they’ve got broken bones,” said Zagzebski.

“Frostbite can affect the skin on their bodies and on the pouch and on the feet, and so they have this trifecta of problems. Where they’re in pain, they’re exhausted, they’re extremely hungry,” said Mason.

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center and SkyWatch Bird Rescue have been asking for donations of supplies to help care for the surge in patients.


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