1st cold-stunned turtles of season arrive at North Carolina Aquarium

North Carolina news

MANTEO, N.C. (WAVY) — The first sea turtle patients affected by cold-stunning have arrived at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center in North Carolina Friday.

Five new patients are being treated at the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital. They were recovered near Hatteras by the volunteer non-profit Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T) and by the National Park Service before being transported to the STAR Center.  

Cold-stunning happens when water temperatures rapidly drop, typically below 55 degrees, and sea turtles close to shore are unable to get back to the warmer waters. The turtles can experience a hypothermic condition that renders them unable to properly swim.  

The cold-stun season typically runs from December through February and can be the busiest time for the STAR Center facility, although they treat turtles year-round.

To treat the animals, they are gradually warmed back to their healthy temperature, then they are monitored to ensure they can swim and eat properly.

At the STAR Center, the staff and veterinary team are able to treat the turtles for a variety of other issues. Depending on the condition of their health, recovery may take weeks or months before they are cleared for release. 

“Dozens, even hundreds, of turtle patients have come through the hospital for treatment, and in past winters, the staff has had to get creative with finding space for them all,” the team said in a statement released.

“Recovery tubs have been known to take up the entire public-visiting side of the STAR Center, and because of the need for separate spaces held at different temperatures, the aquarium’s gatehouse restrooms are often utilized. When playing host to these aquatic reptile patients, those areas will be closed to guests so the turtles can rest and recover.”

Additional supplies are needed in anticipation of more turtles arriving for treatment. Items can be purchased from the STAR Center’s Amazon.com wish list to help staff care for current and incoming patients. 

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