Sea Turtle Inc. prepares to patrol for cold stunned turtles

Sea Turtle, Inc. volunteers and staff gather around a truck bed loaded with sea turtles to return them to the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, during a public release by Sea Turtle, Inc. of 160 sea turtles recovered from the recent cold-stun event at Cameron County Beach #4 on South Padre Island. Volunteers and staff rescued the sea turtles from the Laguna Madre-area, during the recent arctic blast. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
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As temperatures plummeted Monday in the Rio Grande Valley, staff at Sea Turtle Inc. are preparing for a cold stun event.

When it gets too cold, sea turtles are unable to maintain their body temperature, making them unable to move or swim.

Sea turtles will drown if they are not rescued because they are unable to lift their heads in order to breathe air.

Sea Turtle Inc. has responded to cold stun events for more than 46 years, including the unprecedented winter freeze of 2021 when the agency rescued more than 5,500 cold stunned sea turtles in just eight days.

“Cold stun response is an annual part of our dedication to conservation and medical care,” Sea Turtle Inc. CEO Wendy Knight said in a press release. “Over the next few days, you will see the deployment of hundreds of dedicated volunteers on foot and boat patrol (as) we respond to this weather event.

“Given current predictions, we anticipate patrols to begin midday Tuesday and (to) be required throughout the following days as we watch for water temperatures to move back above (the) 55 degree mark.”

In the news release, the conservation agency it has managed these emergencies before, adding that the opening of its new hospital, which it says is highly anticipated, will bring much-needed additions and will be a critical resource for future cold stunning events.

“We are rapidly working to complete construction on the largest fully enclosed sea turtle hospital in the world,” Knight said. “Having the hospital complete for these types of events will have a critical impact on the survival rate and the response capability of our organization.”

Knight said cold stun emergencies are challenging and the dedication of staff and volunteers are critical to Sea Turtle Inc.’s mission.

For updates on volunteer opportunities as well as requests for supplies and other resources, visit Sea Turtle Inc.’s Facebook page.