Freeze leaves sea turtles stunned
“A cold-stunned and lethargic green sea turtle raises it head briefly while it sits ready for transport to either the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge or Gladys Porter Zoo. More than 500 turtles were rescued off of Boca Chica Beach and South Padre Island Thursday and Friday. Approximately 30 turtles have succumbed to the cold.”
By JACKIE ARMENDARIZ, Brownsville Herald Brownsville Herald
“An estimated 500 cold-stunned sea turtles had been rescued in the lower Laguna Madre area by Friday, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official said, as cold temperatures took marine wildlife by surprise this week.
The TPWD announced Friday there was “growing concern” about cold-stunned sea turtles but said that only minor impacts to fish populations were observed. Still, the closure of certain coastal fishing spots was extended to noon Monday.
The number of turtles rescued already had been termed a record for this area, but by Friday it had nearly set records elsewhere as well.
“Only a few more and this will be the most recorded during a cold stunning event since the STSSN (Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network) was established in 1980,” Donna Shaver, head of sea turtle science and recovery at Padre Island National Seashore, said in a Friday press release. Shaver works for the National Park Service.
Sea turtles are a protected species.
Area resources for them have “hit capacity,” Willy Cupit, a TPWD Brownsville-based coastal ecologist with the coastal fisheries division, said Friday.
TPWD Corpus Christi staff will come and get some of the turtles and take them to the facility there, Cupit said.
Rescued sea turtles are slowly brought back to an acceptable temperature and closely monitored before their release, he said.
Partnerships with the Gladys Porter Zoo and Sea Turtles Inc., a South Padre Island nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing sea turtles, were established to help when there are hundreds of turtles in need, he added.
Phone calls to Sea Turtles Inc. were not answered Friday.
The cold hits sea turtles hard because they are not warm-blooded and can’t regulate their body temperatures. When water temperatures drop, they literally “freeze to death” as they stop moving to conserve energy, Alex Nuñez, a TPWD lower coast regional biologist, said.”