The ocean and sound waters surrounding the Outer Banks play host to wintering sea turtles, especially young green turtles and Kemp’s ridley. Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on the temperature of their surroundings to maintain their body temperature.
During a cold snap, when temperatures decline below 50 degrees for a sustained period, turtles become lethargic, or cold stunned, experiencing decreased circulation and slowing of other body functions that causes them to float to the surface. At that time, winds and currents may push them onto land.
Trained volunteers for the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) and National Park Service staffers comb the ocean and sound side shorelines looking for stranded turtles.
The recovery process begins by gradually warming the turtles back up over the course of a few days. After recovery, the turtles are later released back into the water.
If you come across a stranded sea turtle, call the NEST 24-hour hotline, 252-441-8622, or alert a NPS staff member.