The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is asking visitors along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast to remain vigilant for signs of cold-stunning among sea turtles and marine mammals.
According to the DNR, cold-stunning is caused by prolonged exposure to dropping temperatures, which can leave animals debilitated with symptoms similar to hypothermia.
The DNR says that this phenomenon typically occurs during late autumn and early winter when water temperatures rapidly decline. Lethargic and unresponsive animals not only risk their safety but can pose potential hazards to boaters, according to the department.
In Virginia, ff you see a stranded turtle, the Virginia Aquarium recommends calling the aquarium right away.
“Time is of the essence when it’s this cold, so a lot of people might see a turtle and it looks deceased — it’s sitting on the beach, it’s not really moving,” Erin Bates, stranding response rehabilitation Manager said. “But that’s the best time to check on it and call us, because a lot of times, those animals are still alive.”
Bates said that for whatever reason, more and more turtles are found stranded in Hampton Roads each year. They typically get about 15 to 20 turtles found cold-stunned within a single season.
If you see any marine wildlife in need of rescuing, the Virginia Aquarium asks that you give them a call. They have a hotline for stranded animal findings, which can be reached at (757) 385-7575.