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This group is saving sea turtles at risk during the Arctic cold front

A stunned turtle being lifted by a person into the back of a pickup truck.
Gaige Davila
Sea Turtle, Inc. staff member holds a cold-stunned sea turtle brought in by a Texas Parks and Wildlife agent.

In the Laguna Madre area in deep South Texas, sea turtles are being recovered from shores along Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Boca Chica and in the shipping channel between Port Isabel and Brownsville.

Sea Turtle, Inc., through the help of staff, volunteers and Texas Parks and Wildlife, collected around 50 sea turtles on Tuesday and are expecting more through Thursday.

Sea turtles get cold stunned when the water gets too cold for them to maintain their body temperature, according to Sea Turtle, Inc. Turtles are conscious but can’t move or swim, eventually drowning in the frigid water.

A Sea Turtle Inc staff member measures a cold-stunned sea turtle.
Gaige Davila
A Sea Turtle Inc staff member measures the first cold-stunned sea turtle recovered during a statewide freeze on Tuesday.

“If the weather behaves the way that they're saying it's going to behave right now, I would think that we'll be back over the threshold by around noon on Thursday,” Wendy Knight, CEO of Sea Turtle, Inc., told TPR. “We should be done seeing patients on Thursday as far as new intake."

Weather reports suggest South Texas will begin to warm on Wednesday and become significantly warmer by Thursday.

As sea turtles came into Sea Turtle, Inc., they were tagged, measured and assessed for injuries by staff. The turtles will take a few days or weeks to recover, depending on the severity of their stun and if they have injuries.

Sea Turtle, Inc.’s facilities can hold up to 600 turtles, but staff believe the final count will likely be lower.

“This will be more similar to some cold-stunning that we had in the beginning of 2022,” said Tess DeSerisy, Conservation Field Supervisor for Sea Turtle, Inc. “So that's like roughly around 100 patients. So that's kind of what we are planning on and planning for. But we're always ready just in case it's a little bit bigger than we expect.”

During a winter freeze in February 2021, Sea Turtle, Inc., Laguna Madre area residents and volunteers across the country recovered over 5,000 sea turtles in what would be the largest cold stun event in recorded history.

Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio

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