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36 cold-stunned sea turtles saved in North Carolina

Mark Chivers/Getty Images

(MOREHEAD CITY,  N.C.) — Dozens of cold-stunned sea turtles were rescued by researchers off the coast of North Carolina this week.


The North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology said it saved 36 cold-stunned sea turtles from Cape Lookout.

While they took in 109 cold-stunned sea turtles, only 36 survived, the marine center said. The surviving turtles are being examined and treated.

The turtles will then be transferred to the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail, to complete their rehabilitation before eventually being released back into their natural habitat.

The dead turtles will be necropsied and used for research.

The term “cold-stunned” refers to a condition in which a sea turtle has become very weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cold-stunning generally occurs when water temperatures where sea turtles are present fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NOAA.

“Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic and are eventually unable to swim causing them to float at the surface. Wind and/or tides may wash them ashore. If temperatures remain low or turtles are not rescued, they can develop secondary health problems or die. Hundreds or even thousands of sea turtles can be affected by cold-stunning events,” according to the NOAA.

Sea turtles become cold-stunned when they are not able to strictly regulate their body temperature like mammals and birds, according to the NOAA.

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