Cold-stunned sea turtles washing up on Virginia beaches

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jan 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-04 06:39:15-05

Virginia Beach, Va. - The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach is caring for 16 sea turtles found cold-stunned in recent weeks.

The turtles, including Loggerheads, Kemp's Ridley and Green Sea Turtles, are washing up hypothermic and near death in both Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.

The cold-blooded turtles are finding it hard to survive as the water temperatures in the Atlantic drop.

"Their body systems start to shut down and they become very, very cold. They can get frostbite," explained live animal coordinator Linda D'Eri. "Their body systems really start to shut down and become very slow. Almost go into a coma-like state."

In December, NewsChannel 3 was the only media crew in the country to embed with the Coast Guard on a mission to rescued cold-stunned sea turtles found in Cape Cod.

You can see our coverage here.

Now the turtles are washing up cold-stunned in Virginia with a greater frequency than seen in the past.

"We do get cold stunned, but it’s on a much smaller scale. For us this is larger than we’ve had in the past," D'Eri explained. "Usually we get maybe 5 to 6 for a season."

The most recent sea turtle to be found was a loggerhead dubbed "Henry S'mores" found Wednesday in Newport News.

A woman there found the turtle and covered him with a blanket until the stranding team could arrive.

"They actually touched the turtle and as soon as they did the turtle took a breath and at that point they were surprised that the turtle was actually alive," D'Eri explained. "They almost look dead when are cold-stunned, but they are just very, very slow and very cold."

The response team says with cold-stunned sea turtles, a matter of hours can mean the difference between life and death.

If you find a sea turtle washed up on the beach, you can call the team at 757-385-7575 - that number is staffed 24 hours a day.

You can also get updates from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center on Facebook here.