Cold-stunned sea turtles being treated at NC coastal rehab center

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SURF CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Twenty cold-stunned sea turtles from New England have been flown into eastern North Carolina for rehabilitation.

The sea turtles arrived at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology Thursday afternoon after undergoing several tests in New England.

Seven of those cold-stunned sea turtles were driven to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City Friday morning.

Biologist Sarah Finn said when the water reaches below 55 degrees, sea turtles are at risk of becoming hypothermic. Their core body temperature decreases causing internal and external effects.

Cold-stunned sea turtles placed in black tubs at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle and Rehabilitation Center.

“Generally with cold-stunned you want to warm them gradually. It’s important to not warm them too rapidly, that can cause a lot of issues,” said Finn.

The turtles were placed in black tubs as they began treatment. One by one each sea turtle was taken a look at, bathed, and applied ointment if needed. Then they were introduced to some food.

“If you can get them eating you made a huge step in their battle to survive,” said Jean Beasley, director of the rehab center.

Depending on their condition due to the cold, each case is handled differently. It’s not always assured their efforts will pay off.

“It’s the case with any sick or injured animal. It’s not always guaranteed to survive,” said Finn.

But if they’re not rescued they have a higher chance of dying. Rehabilitation can take as little as a month to almost a year, according to Finn.

Sea turtle 17 being treated at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle and Rehabilitation Center.

“The folks doing rehab are doing the best job possible and a lot of times quite often they make a full recovery and be released,” said Finn.

The most rewarding part for Beasley is releasing the turtles into the ocean, she said.

“And their flippers start flapping cause they smell the ocean and they know they’re going home, and then you wait out in the water and they push away from you, you know you helped that turtle have another chance at life,” said Beasley.

The first sea turtle release of the season is scheduled for June 3. The director is hopeful some of the seven cold-stunned sea turtles rescued will be part of that release.

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