9 sea turtles brought in to rescue center

HARLINGEN — What rescue teams feared would be another major cold-stunned turtle event passed yesterday with just nine sea turtles brought into Sea Turtle Inc. for rehabilitation.

Just two weeks ago, 309 cold-stunned sea turtles were rescued by Sea Turtle Inc. and teams from Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Game Wardens and other volunteers along South Padre Island and Boca Chica Beach.

With overnight temperatures bottoming out in the high 20s, and the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre dropping precipitously, another major stunning event failed to materialize.

“We’ve had just nine turtles brought in,” Jean Pettit, administrative assistant at Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island, said late yesterday afternoon.

Pettit said teams would remain on alert through today, but with higher temperatures forecast, it would seem the most dangerous period may be over.

Jeff George, executive director of Sea Turtle Inc., said earlier this week that three turtles had been brought in on Wednesday. He theorized the previous cold blast had acclimated the turtles, or they were moving to deeper waters to avoid being cold-stunned.

When air temperatures drop suddenly in South Texas, the temperature of the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre can drop below 50 degrees.

When that happens, the mostly juvenile green sea turtles enter a state in which they appear comatose, and become stranded and can’t make it back to warmer gulf waters.

At that point, they are at risk of dying from exposure or predation.

It’s been a record winter so far for cold-stunned turtles. Donna Shaver, chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science for Padre Island National Seashore, said more than 2,500 cold-stunned green sea turtles have been rescued along the Texas gulf coast.

What to do

If you encounter any cold-stunned sea turtles on South Padre Island or Boca Chica Beach, call Sea Turtle Inc. at 956-761-4511.