New Year’s Eve rescue mission: Save sea turtles from death in frigid ocean

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - For humans, the cold snap sweeping North Carolina is mostly cause for bundling up and staying inside. But for cold-blooded sea turtles, unusually low ocean temperatures pose a threat of life-threatening "cold-stunning."

The North Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center on Roanoke Island has taken in more than 80 such turtles in recent days, including eight who were shipped to the Fort Fisher facility Sunday for medical care. Staff there will monitor the turtles for complications – one arrived with a broken carapace that is starting to heal – and release them into the Gulf Stream when they're fully recovered.

"Cold-stunning can occur when water temperatures drop quickly to below 50 degrees," said a news release from the Fort Fisher aquarium. "Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore."

The aquarium adds that anyone interested in making a donation to assist in the care and rehabilitation of the sea turtles may contact 910-772-0500 or visit And anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at 252-241-7367.