By Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2020

ROANOKE ISLAND, N.C. (AP) - Rapidly dipping temperatures in North Carolina’s Outer Banks “cold stunned” at least 120 sea turtles this week, causing them to float to the surface of the chilly waters and wash ashore in critical condition.

On Tuesday, 95 sea turtles were brought to the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Approximately 25 more came in on Wednesday. Experts think that when the temperature suddenly drops below 55 degrees, the cold-blooded creatures can become temporarily immobile and even contract pneumonia, said Karen Clark, director of the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education.

This week, the water temperatures hovered around 55 degrees before dropping to 40, said William Thompson, lead biological technician on Hatteras Island for the National Park Service. The sudden cooling caused the reptiles to become deathly ill, preventing them from being able to eat or swim, according to Clark.

Teams will feed and treat the turtles while they recover in water tanks before returning them to the sea, the newspaper said.

In December, volunteers and park staff found more than 100 stunned sea turtles following a three-day cold snap, Clark said. The incidents over the last two months nearly match an occurrence in January 2016, when more than 300 sea turtles floated ashore, the newspaper reported.

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