(Courtesy of Michael Beswick)
PINE KNOLL SHORES, N.C. (AP) -- A sudden spate of winter weather has taken its toll on sea turtles along the North Carolina coast.
A statement from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources says the sudden cold caught more than 600 turtles in frigid waters near the shore. The turtles couldn't swim to safety because of their hypothermia-like reaction.
The North Carolina Aquariums have taken in nearly 450 turtles.
Michael Beswick with the North Carolina Roanoke Island Aquarium says the facility has rescued 349 turtles from the Hatteras Island sound.
He also says six have passed away and 85 were transported to Florida by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Over 250 remain in the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation STAR Center, which includes medical rooms for surgery and holding tanks.
Because of the high volume of turtles affected by the drop in temperatures, STAR has had to place them in public bathrooms and exhibits to accommodate their treatments.
In partnership with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, about 200 of the turtles were scheduled to be sent south for a beach release Jan. 8.
To be released, the turtles must pass a swim test and return to normal body temperature.
The NC Aquarium of Roanoke Island asks the community to support their cause by donating towels, tubs or other medical supplies.
Those interested can also make monetary donations by calling Jennifer Gamiel at 252-475-2300.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.