Earlier this year, Texas witnessed the largest sea turtle cold stunning event in the state’s history.
Sea turtles are reptiles and they rely on external sources of heat to maintain their body temperature. Cold stunning to sea turtles normally occurs when water temperature reaches 50 degrees and below, and the turtles are not able to migrate to warmer waters. Turtles may also surface hoping to be warmed by the sun, but air temperatures have dropped so they are not able to find a warm location on the surface of the water.
Cold stunning refers to the changes to the sea turtles after exposure to cold water for an extended period of time. They will experience a decrease in heart rate and circulation causing them to become lethargic. This may lead to shock, pneumonia, frostbite and potentially death.
On the Texas coast, #seaturtles are washing up on the beach due to cold weather. Nearly 1,000 cold stunned sea turtles have been rescued in the past month. Find a stranded sea turtle? Call 1-866-TURTLE-5. https://t.co/RjElsoZmcc pic.twitter.com/xOVS84kxnR
— TIRN (@SeaTurtles_org) January 4, 2018
Previously the largest cold stunning event was in Texas during the winter of 2010-2011, with 1,670 green sea turtles cold stunned.
So far this year, we have seen 3,577 green sea turtles cold stunned in Texas. Cold stunned sea turtles were found along the entire Texas coast, with the largest number, 2,663, in the Upper Laguna Madre and Corpus Christi Bay.
A cold stunned sea turtle will be taken to a rehab facility, placed in a dry tub and evaluated for any other existing health concerns. They will be warmed up slowly and when appropriate placed in water and closely monitored by rehab staff.
Once fully recovered turtles are measured, weighed and tagged before releasing, and our Gulf of Mexico staff, Joanie and Theresa were able to assist NMFS with the processing of over 300 green sea turtles brought to the Galveston facility.
Unfortunately the cold stunning season runs until early March, so if you find a cold stunned sea turtle in our bays please call the Texas coast sea turtle hotline, 866-TURTLE-5. Turtle Island Restoration Network has sponsored this number for over 12 years.