Cold temperatures bring influx of cold-stunned sea turtles

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Alongside this winter's abnormally frigid temperatures, the South Carolina Aquarium is seeing an influx of cold-stunned sea turtles.

Typically, they are found in the New England area but sea turtles suffering from this hypothermic conditions are now being rescued up and down the East Coast, even here in the Lowcountry.

"The temperature drops drastically and suddenly so they can't generate their own body heat," said Willow Melamet, the manager of the Sea Turtle Care Center at the South Carolina Aquarium."If the water temperature goes down even a few degrees it could be detrimental. When it reaches 50 degrees fahrenheit, they float to the surface of the water. They're lethargic, they're not moving, they're susceptible to frostbite."

At the South Carolina Aquarium right now, there are four sea turtles rescued from cold-stun.

Three are from an animal hospital in Virginia.

One was rescued locally.

"Right in the beginning of the year on January second, his name is Jon Snow," Melamet said."He's down in the sea turtle hospital and he came in with only 36 degrees of his body temperature. So that turtle was basically almost frozen and had a heart rate of only four beats per minute. A normal heart rate is about forty."

Jon Snow, among the other cold-stun sea turtles, is now going through rehabilitation at the Aquarium.

Melamet hopes her work with these turtles will raise awareness about other issues in the ocean.

"A lot of things happening to sea turtles are happening to other marine mammals and birds," Melamet said. "We can use them as somewhat of an ambassador to tell the story of ocean conservation."

Sea turtles are typically housed at the aquarium for 2 to 24 months until they're healthy.

At that time, they're released back into the wild.

If you are on one of our beaches and happen to see a sea turtle, please call the Department of Natural Resource's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431.

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