50ºF

Cold-stunned turtles saved from frigid waters recover in Virginia

Turtles brought to recover at center in Virginia Beach

OUTER BANKS, NC – The cold snap in North Carolina is stunning dozens of turtles.

Nearly 100 were washed ashore, after floating in the frigid waters.

Rescuers are working fast to get the turtles to safety.

Turtles on the southern Outer Banks were seen surrounded by frost, stopped in their tracks.

"We have to get them off the shoreside as quickly as possible and into a controlled environment,” said Lou Browning with Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Over the past two days, volunteers with the Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation near Buxton have been feverishly retrieving green and kemps ridley turtles cold-stunned by the recent drop in temperature.

“When the water temps drop, they are not able to handle that. So essentially their system starts to shut down and they’ll end up floating along the surface and washing into the beaches," said Browning.

The non-profit rescued 91 turtles alone on Tuesday. Something Chelsea Witherup, the stranding technician at the Virginia Aquarium, knows is time-sensitive.

“Usually below 65 is when we start becoming concerned,” said Witherup.

Witherup says the water is warmer farther north than it used to be, so the turtles follow that warm trend in search of food and ultimately get stuck in a cold snap.

“They didn’t get memo they need to go farther south before the weather gets bad," said Brown.

Once the turtles are rescued they are quickly warmed up and taken to a stranding center, like the one in Virginia Beach. They undergo a whole host of tests before hopefully being back in the water between 6 months and a year.

“There are very few things that individuals can do where they really make a difference. But this is one place we can,” said Browning.

Volunteers braving the frigid weather to make sure these turtles, many threatened, get a second chance at life.