Cold-stunned sea turtles return to the ocean at Cape Lookout

And they're off! Four little green sea turtles make their way back into the ocean. Most of the released sea turtles were about what we call "dinner plate" size. Good luck little ones! [NPS photo]

They’re home! On March 26, Cape Lookout National Seashore staff assisted the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission with releasing 28 rehabilitated sea turtles from South Core Banks into the ocean once again.

These turtles were part of the over 100 sea turtles found cold-stunned in late January on Cape Lookout National Seashore beaches.

Cape Lookout park rangers help the biologists move the sea turtles from the boat to the shore as we get ready to release them into the ocean. [NPS photo]

Sea turtles can become cold-stunned when local water temperatures drop below 55 °F.

The turtles were gathered up and taken to caregivers in an area marine science lab and the N.C. Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher and Roanoke Island to recover and wait for the ocean water to warm up again before they could be released.

Their chance came on last Thursday when NOAA satellite imagery of the sea surface temperature showed offshore water temperatures had warmed up off the coast of South Core Banks.

NOAA satellite imagery shows a plume of warm water off the coast of Cape Lookout this past week. [Courtesy NPS]