Preparing for cold-stun sea turtle season

By on November 28, 2023

(The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles – N.E.S.T.)

NEST volunteer Taylor Horney (photo from last year’s season)

We are headed into cold-stun season. What does this mean?

A sea turtle’s body temperature closely matches that of their environment. When water temperatures dip under 50 degrees Fahrenheit for multiple days, these turtles become lethargic, float along the surface to have easier access to air, and many of their body systems slow down. They then are blown into a shoreline or even spotted in the water. Cold stunning is an event that usually requires medical attention, as infections in the lungs, damage to organs and GI tract, eye injuries, and even frostbite are possible.

Ever wonder how this coordinated work happens? It begins with N.E.S.T. volunteers on Hatteras Island who patrol the shores when the weather and wind are right to bring cold-stunned turtles to shore. After braving the cold conditions, the volunteers meet at a staging site, where turtles are measured and labeled before hitching a ride to the STAR Center at NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island with more fantastic N.E.S.T. volunteers.

If you spot a sea turtle on land this time of year, please call one of the stranding hotlines with your location.
  • Hatteras Island: 252-216-6892 (National Park Service, Cape Hatteras National Seashore)
  • North of Oregon Inlet: 252-441-8622 N.E.S.T.

Sea turtles in North Carolina are protected by the Endangered Species Act and managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

For more information visit The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles – N.E.S.T. and follow their Facebook page.


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