Thursday, February 18th 2021, 1:25 pm - Officials aren't sure when the turtles will be re-released into the wild.
The endangered turtles were spotted washing ashore on beaches off the southern coast of Texas.
As of Wednesday, at least 4,700 sea turtles were recovered. Wendy Knight, executive director of research and conservation centre Sea Turtle Inc, told Reuters that during a normal winter, between 100 and 500 turtles wash ashore on Texas beaches.
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
Some turtles are being cared for at a rescue centre. When that filled up, others were brought to The South Padre Island Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, which still has heat. They'll be kept in enclosures and tubs until the water has warmed up enough for them to be re-released.
“Every 15 minutes or less there’s another truck or SUV that pulls up,” Ed Caum, executive director of the bureau, told the Associated Press.
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
Officials aren't sure when the turtles will be returned to the wild, given another storm is aiming for the region, but some estimate the re-release could begin Saturday.
Scores of volunteers have stepped in to help with rescue efforts, donating time, money, and generators. South Padre Island city council has built platforms to help store the turtles, NPR reports. And on Tuesday night, SpaceX donated a giant, commercial generator.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TURTLES ARE COLD STUNNED?
Sudden and unexpected temperature drops can cause sea turtles to become cold-stunned, resulting in a decrease in heart rate and circulation, causing lethargy, seaturtles.org explains.
It can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions, like shock, pneumonia, or frostbite.
Cold-stunning usually occurs when waters are around 10C or below.
All five of the sea turtle species found in Texas are endangered, and they're especially sensitive to drops in water temperature because the cold-blooded creatures are unable to regulate their body temperature.