(CNN) — The quick drop in temperatures off the North Carolina coast this week caught several hundred sea turtles in water suddenly too cold for them to swim.
About 600 juvenile turtles needed help, Claire Aubel, a spokeswoman with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, said.The aquarium posted several photos on their Facebook page.
An aquarist at the facility, Michele Lamping, told CNN affiliate WCTI of New Bern that the turtles were cold stunned, a condition similar to hypothermia. This can happen when temperatures sink quickly in shallow water, the station reported.
“These guys should be in the 70 degree temperatures, and they were down in the 50s,” she said.
When a turtle is cold stunned, it stops swimming and just floats with the current. Some end up on shore. Some die, and some become prey.
Rescuers caught more than 600 turtles in two days; 450 were taken to North Carolina’s three aquariums while others went to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.
“Keep these little ones in your thoughts and send them positive energy. Many didn’t make it, but most are fighting to live,” the rehabilitation facility said on its Facebook page.
More than 50 turtles, which ranged in age from 2 to 5, went to the Pine Knoll Shores aquarium. Many have already recovered, but others will need medicine, more time in warm water or both.
Two hundred turtles will be released Friday at a more southerly location, Aubel said.
Most of the rescued animals are green sea turtles, but there were some loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley turtles, too.
CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
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