This Winter, Gulf Coast Scientists Are Rescuing More Cold-Stunned Turtles Than Ever

Local organizations and volunteers have already found 2,980 turtles this year.

By Jill AmentJanuary 19, 2018 10:09 am| ,

Scientists, researchers, and volunteers along the Gulf Coast have been working at a fever pitch to save hundreds of sea turtles that have washed up on Texas coastal shores – alive but stunned by the cold. It’s not an unusual phenomenon, but researchers say this year has seen a record-breaking number of turtles.

Dr. Donna Shaver, the Chief of the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Division at Padre Island National Seashore, says they’ve found 2,980 turtles so far.

“That smashes our previous record, which was a little over 1,600,” she says. “So we have been extremely busy with this activity.”

She says the cold weather is a problem for turtles, especially those in shallow water.

“So when these cold snaps occur, the water temperatures plummet. These are reptiles, so they can’t control their body temperature,” she says. “When it gets really cold, they just float up to the surface. Their whole body systems just shut down.”

Dr. Shaver says that without bringing them in for care, the turtles will die. Once turtles come to her lab, they’re warmed very gradually.

“Then we just wait until they’re medically cleared and the conditions in the surf water of the Gulf of Mexico are warm enough to allow release,” she says. “We want them to be at least 55 degrees or warmer.”

Dr. Shaver says that most of the 2,980 turtles have been found alive, thanks to the many organizations and volunteers who are rescuing them.

Written by Jen Rice.