Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cold Stunned Sea Turtles May Appear Dead

Cold stunned sea turtles are turning up all along the shores of the East Coast and may appear dead. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center rescued four turtles in just one day, the New England Aquarium has rescued more than 160, and dozens upon dozens have been flown to SeaWorld in Florida for rehabilitation.

These turtles may appear to be dead but many can be saved. If you spot a sea turtle floating in the ocean or washed up on the shore, contact a local aquarium or wildlife rescue service right away. Several emergency contact numbers are listed at the end of this blog.

Cold stunned sea turtles may appear to be dead.

This video from the North Carolina Aquarium gives a quick overview of how they help rehabilitate cold stunned turtles that have become stranded:

Sea turtles have been swimming in the ocean since dinosaurs roamed the earth, but now they are facing extinction. Tens of thousands of sea turtles are caught in fishing nets and thrown away as waste. Sea turtles are killed and sold for food, exotic oils, leather purses and other luxury items. Eggs are harvested as a delicacy. Plastic bags and trash are mistaken for jellyfish and consumed, and coastal development encroaches on their nesting habitat. All of these factors are taking their toll on the population of these gentle creatures.

Saving just one turtle makes a difference!

Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles and many migrate to warmer waters in the winter. Those turtles that don't migrate start having problems when water temperatures drop into the 50's and their bodily functions start shutting down, making them appear lifeless. This state of hypothermia renders them helpless and they lose the ability to swim. Many aquariums have emergency response teams on standby during the winter months to help rescue and rehabilitate these vulnerable creatures.

On his way to rehab!

If you catch sight of a sea turtle on the beach or floating in the water, contact the local aquarium immediately or another wildlife rescue service. They will slowly warm the turtle and treat them for hypothermia, then make sure they haven't developed pneumonia or another secondary infection. The next steps are to hydrate and feed the turtles. Once they are well enough, the turtles will be returned to their original habitat when water temperatures are safe again.

I'm feeling better and going home! 

Here are some contact numbers of aquariums and rescue organizations along the east coast:
  • South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program & South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (800) 922-5431
  • North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol (843) 283-6670
  • Ripleys Myrtle Beach Aquarium (843) 916-0888
  • North Carolina Aquariums (800) 832-3474
  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Standing Response Team 24-Hour Hotline (757) 385-7575 or (757) 385-7576
  • National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD (410) 373-0083
  • New Jersey Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538
  • Riverhead, NY Stranding Response Team 24-Hour Hotline (631) 369-9829
  • New England Aquarium 24-Hour Marine Animal Hotline (617) 973-5247
  • Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Network
    (866) 755-6622
Mit Tressler / Guest Blogger