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More than 100 cold-stunned turtles rescued after washing ashore frozen in North Carolina

Researchers found 109 cold-stunned turtles on a beach in North Carolina this week in an effort to rescue them from freezing temperatures.

Of the turtles rescued this week, just 36 survived, according to the N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, which helped rescue the turtles and brought them to an aquarium and rehab center.

Earlier this month, research teams on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore transported even more cold-stunned turtles to rehab centers. 

The NC State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology took in 109 cold-stunned sea turtles from Cape Lookout...

Posted by CMAST - NC State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology on Monday, January 22, 2024

In a post on Facebook, the National Park explained that when turtles are cold-stunned, they can't swim or eat. Their body temperature is largely regulated by the temperature of the water, so during the fall and winter, when the Gulf Stream makes the temperature drop, they can become lethargic and hypothermic. 

They can be pushed ashore onto Cape Lookout by winds and tides, the park said, urging visitors to report any turtles they see on the shore. 

"Turtles can appear lifeless but are often still alive," the post reads. "Do not try to put it back in the water. Instead, try to find your geographical coordinates and call the NC Sea Turtle Standing Network Hotline." 

More than 60 of the turtles were brought to The North Carolina Aquarium after several cold-stunning events. They were unable to swim due to a hypothermia-like response.  

The aquarium's Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation — or STAR Center — is caring for the turtles, which are of the green, Kemp's ridley and loggerhead varieties. The program also helps transport turtles from as far as Boston to rehab facilities. 

First, they slowly warm turtles to their optimal body temperature. They may also give them medicine and treat injuries. When the turtles can swim and exhibit normal behavior, they are cleared by a veterinarian to return to wildlife. 

The turtles are then tagged with a microchip and released into temperatures as close to 70 degrees as possible. 

Some turtles were brought to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. After taking in more than 50 and releasing nine, the rehab center still has 103 as of Wednesday. The center is asking for help in buying supplies like syringes to help give the turtles fluids. 

"Until they are able to swim, turtles are in low water or on wet towels so they need eye lube to help keep their eyes moist," the center explained on Facebook. 

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