Volunteers search NC coast to rescue sea turtles

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013
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Brittany Waterfield, 16, of Avon, who participated in a NEST training program rescued a loggerhead with the help of her mother, Tammy, on a cold, dreary Sunday in January. "I felt like I had saved another life," Brittany said. "I would do anything for an animal. "

People who find turtles should call NEST, which has a hotline that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And never assume a sea turtle is dead, Fox says. Passers-by ignored one upside-down turtle, assuming it was dead, but rescuers saved it.

Hundreds of cold-stunned turtles have been found off the New England coast — so many that rehabilitation facilities elsewhere are helping them recover.

Usually, when sea turtles are stunned and brought in for treatment, they haven't eaten for days or weeks. One loggerhead brought to the South Carolina Aquarium this week from New England had not eaten in a month.

Some turtles rescued in North Carolina also are getting help there.

"One thing that happens when sea turtles are cold stunned, their bodies just shut down. You can't feed them immediately, you have to wait for them to get going again," said Kelly Thorvalson, the turtle rescue program manager for the aquarium where three loggerheads stunned earlier this month off North Carolina are being treated.

They are usually treated with shots of antibiotics and vitamins until they can eat small amounts of food. The antibiotics also help prevent other ailments such as pneumonia from setting in.

In the case of the North Carolina loggerheads brought to South Carolina, the recovery will take months. Depending on how quickly they recover, the turtles will likely be released off South Carolina in late spring.

Fox is keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast, fearful that another drop in temperatures will bring more cold-stunned turtles ashore. The forecast calls for highs in the 30s in about a week.

"We are very concerned," she said. "We hope all the turtles got the idea from the first temperature drop and headed out to Gulf stream. But there are some turtles swimming in the sound. We will all be looking."

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Online:

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center: http://www.seaturtlehospital.org

Network for Endangered Sea Turtles: http://www.nestonline.org

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Bruce Smith in Charleston, S.C., contributed to this story.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc