Hatteras Island is known for its wide variety of wildlife. One of the islands most interesting and protected animals is the sea turtle. Sea Turtles have been nesting on Hatteras Island for several generations and are known to often make their way back to the Pamlico Sound for its abundance of food.
During the winter months the sea turtle will travel into the Gulf Stream and onto warmer waters. With the large quantity of food Pamlico Sound has to offer, juvenile turtles are choosing to stay longer in the cooler waters to feed. Sea Turtles are cold blooded animals and their body temperature reflects their environment. When water temperatures drop to around 50 degrees and below, the turtles become too cold to move and are unable to swim to the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream. This has caused multiple cases of cold stunned sea turtles including Loggerhead, Green and Kemp’s Ridley turtles in the waterways of Hatteras Island.
Thankfully, Hatteras Islanders have a passionate heart for these historic sea creatures and have been volunteering their time to go on a search and rescue mission for all sea turtles in need. A local organization called N.E.S.T (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) has put together a group of volunteers to go out and rescue cold-stunned turtles and transport them to the vet’s office. Volunteers check the water temperatures daily as well as search along the soundside beaches and water ways. They search endlessly for turtles that are unable to find their way back to warmer waters. So far around 30 turtles have been rescued and sent off to a rehabilitation centers. As each turtle is rescued, data is recorded about the breed, location, and size before being taken to the center. Once at the rehabilitation centers, the turtles are treated and taken care of until their set release date in the spring.
Photo from Hatteras Island Ocean Center