Hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles rescued on South Padre Island amid severe winter weather
Over the last three days, several hundred volunteers on South Padre Island have been braving the weather to try and save an endangered species washing up along the shores.
With temperatures dropping rapidly in the gulf, the weather becomes a matter of life and death for a gem of South Padre Island—sea turtles.
"As a result of that, they can't move their flippers, so they float to the top of the water,” said Sea Turtle Inc.’s Executive Director Wendy Knight. “And even though their instinct tells them and they're awake, and they know they're supposed to lift their hands to breathe - they can't."
Going through what’s known as a cold stun, the turtles become lifeless: Some bob in the water, others wash ashore.
Knight says the nonprofit is doing everything they can to help as many turtles as they can, bringing about 1,500 sea turtles so far to the South Padre Island Convention Center.
The nonprofit is normally prepared for these type of events, but Knight says the power issues, compounded by time in the water, has already caused some losses.
"Today, we're seeing really severely cold stunned and a lot more DOA arrivals,” Knight said. “Just again because of the longevity. This is unprecedented weather for this area."
And it’s not just the rescues in danger. Longtime residents like Allison—the first sea turtle to ever have a prosthetic after losing three limbs—and Hang 10, are being dry docked to warm them up.
"We do dry dock when they're ill, especially,” Knight said. “So, like the cold stuns as we discussed, if we put them in water now they would drown. So, this is really something you do for a sick animal. And Hang-10 is not sick."
Knight says staff and volunteers are doing their best to get the turtles warm and back to the water soon, but the next crisis will be getting large tanks back to their normal operating temperatures.