Hundreds of young turtles rescued from frigid Atlantic in North Carolina

Workers at an aquarium in North Carolina check sea turtles for mobility and strength.

Story highlights

  • Temperatures in the water dropped too quickly for the young turtles to swim to warmer spots
  • About 450 went to aquariums, others to a private turtle rehab center
  • Some are ready to be released back into the sea near the Florida-Georgia border

(CNN)The quick drop in temperatures off the North Carolina coast this week caught several hundred sea turtles in water suddenly too cold for them to swim.

About 600 juvenile turtles needed help, Claire Aubel, a spokeswoman with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, said.
An aquarist at the facility, Michele Lamping, told CNN affiliate WCTI of New Bern that the turtles were cold stunned, a condition similar to hypothermia. This can happen when temperatures sink quickly in shallow water, the station reported.
    "These guys should be in the 70 degree temperatures, and they were down in the 50s," she said.
    When a turtle is cold stunned, it stops swimming and just floats with the current. Some end up on shore. Some die, and some become prey.
    Rescuers caught more than 600 turtles in two days; 450 were taken to North Carolina's three aquariums while others went to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.
    "Keep these little ones in your thoughts and send them positive energy. Many didn't make it, but most are fighting to live," the rehabilitation facility said on its Facebook page.
    More than 50 turtles, which ranged in age from 2 to 5, went to the Pine Knoll Shores aquarium. Many have already recovered, but others will need medicine, more time in warm water or both.
    Two hundred turtles will be released Friday, likely near the Georgia-Florida border, Aubel said.
    Most of the rescued animals are green sea turtles, but there were some loggerhead and Kemp's ridley turtles, too.