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Sea Turtle Inc, volunteers prepare to recover hundreds of cold-stunned turtles during freeze

A recovering sea turtle who was cold stunned during a winter storm in 2021.
Sea Turtle Inc.
A recovering sea turtle who was cold stunned during a winter storm in 2021.

As a freeze blankets Texas, people across the Laguna Madre area are preparing to save sea turtles impacted by the cold temperatures.

Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island has done this before, most famously when over 5,000 sea turtles were recovered in 2021 during a winter storm that brought down power for most of the state. While the nonprofit organization doesn’t anticipate an event as severe, it’s preparing for a few hundred turtles to come through its doors by Wednesday.

“We'll probably cross the threshold for a cold stun sometime after midnight [Tuesday], but maybe before 8 a.m. in the morning,” Sea Turtle Inc CEO Wendy Knight told TPR. “Statistically, that usually means we have 3 to 5 hours before we start seeing the first patients. So we have a full slate of patrols going out on foot. We’ll deploy our boats in the morning as well and then expect by noon tomorrow to have patients in the door.”

Sea turtles get cold stunned when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature, according to Sea Turtle Inc. Turtles are conscious but can’t move or swim, eventually drowning in the frigid water.

In response to the 2021 cold stun event, Sea Turtle Inc started constructing a new hospital and rehabilitation center. While the center isn’t finished yet, and Sea Turtle Inc still has several resident sea turtles along with recovering injured turtles, Knight said they and several volunteers will be ready.

“We are prepared for an event tomorrow, whether we have 100 patients, 1000 patients or 10,000 patients,” she said.

To support Sea Turtle Inc.’s efforts for cold stunned turtles, visit their Facebook page.

Gaige Davila is the Border and Immigration Reporter for Texas Public Radio.