Residents across the Gulf Coast of Texas have been out saving sea turtles by the thousands due to the turtles being stunned by the cold as temperatures reach historic lows in the state.
They ran out of space at the rescue center, so the local convention center opened its doors to turtle storage. This video was from yesterday afternoon. By the time my mom sent it to me, there were so many more that she said, “there is no empty floor space tonight.” pic.twitter.com/g6Gw7dfIOQ— Lara (@lara_hand) February 16, 2021
Over 2,500 sea turtles have been rescued by volunteers on just South Padre Island. Some turtles have been relocated to a conservation facility, while others are being temporarily housed at the South Padre Island Convention Center according to WFLA.
In a normal year, volunteers with Sea Turtle, Inc. might rescue anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred cold-stunned turtles, bringing them to the groups rescue center to warm up and allow them to survive.
My mom is retired, & she spends her winters volunteering at a sea turtle rescue center in south Texas. The cold snap is stunning the local turtles & they’re doing a lot of rescues. She sent me this photo today of the back of her Subaru. It’s *literally* turtles all the way down. pic.twitter.com/xaDRNjLDoQ— Lara (@lara_hand) February 15, 2021
While many sea turtles will be saved due to the acts of the volunteers, many turtles will be lost. Speaking to The Washington Post, Wendy Knight, the executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc., fears that hundreds of those turtles rescued in Texas may have already succumbed to the cold.
Texas Game Wardens assigned to Cameron county rescued 141 sea turtles from the frigid waters of the Brownsville Ship Channel and surrounding bays. The sea turtles were transported via the PV Murchison, operated by Sgt. Game Warden Duke and B/M Bowers-Vest. pic.twitter.com/LqFBrElTog— Texas Game Warden (@TexasGameWarden) February 17, 2021
“It’s unprecedented,” she told The Washington Post. “A cold stun like this could have the potential to wipe out decades of hard work, and we’re going through it with no power and a unique, more catastrophic challenge to our efforts.”
Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals unable to regulate their body temperatures and when temps drop below 50°F, they become lethargic and lose motor skills, leaving them unable to swim.
Often they are left vulnerable to predators or get washed ashore, becoming stranded. With temperatures so low in the Longhorn state, once stranded on land, the turtles would certainly pass away due to low temperatures unless volunteers step in.
If you are able to, donations to local conservation groups in Texas of tarps and kiddie pools are being requested to gradually increase the animals’ body heat. If you have the ability and live by on the coastline in Texas, check local beaches and contact your local animal shelters or conservation groups if any are found.