SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) – Twenty baby Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are rehabilitating at Sea Turtle Inc. after being stunned by the cold off the coast of Boston.
The cold temperatures have swept through the North East, bring with them heavy snow, wind, and rain. Drastic drops in temperature are bad news for cold-blooded sea turtles swimming off the coast.
Sea Turtle Inc. Director, Wendy Knight says turtles become stunned and run the risk of drowning or getting pneumonia when the temperatures drop.
“They are literally stunned and frozen, but they are awake, they’re alive, but they will float to the top of the water and then because they’re cold stunned, they can’t lift their head to draw breath and turtles will drown because of it or they’ll get stranded on the beach and be paralyzed,” said Knight.
This weekend she says Sea Turtle Inc. received a call from the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts, asking to help to rehabilitate some of the ‘overwhelming’ amount of stunned sea turtles they received.
On Monday, volunteer pilots flew 150 sea turtles to Texas, 20 of which landed in south Texas to be rehabilitated at Sea Turtle Inc.
Knight says this is the first time sea turtles are flown in from elsewhere and having so many become stunned at once is rare.
“The anomaly of having an overwhelming number in another state that requires they be flown to us, that’s a bit unique. The weather up north has been a bit unique this year, but Sea Turtle Inc. manages cold-stunned turtles annually,” said Knight.
There were a variety of sea turtles stunned up north, but all the sea turtles that arrived at Sea Turtle Inc. are Kemp’s Ridleys. Knight says that was intentional because the turtles are familiar with the Gulf Coast.
“Kemp’s Ridleys are the smallest of the sea turtle species, and they are only born on the beach in Mexico and on the Texas shoreline here on South Padre Island. So these Kemp’s Ridleys, in all likelihood, started here with us,” said Knight.
So far, seven of the 20 are well enough to be in a public viewing tank. The rest are still being monitored behind the scenes.
Knight says the amount of time they take to recover could vary. It could take between a few weeks to a few months, but once they are healthy, they will be released offshore.
This may be a rare opportunity for Sea Turtle Inc. visitors to see Kemp’s Ridleys at this age.
“For the first couple of years of their life, they float through the ocean on the ocean current and can go all the way up to Massachusetts and we have seen history of them going as far south as Venezuela,” said Knight. She adds at around age 10 to 12, they return to their original nesting grounds to lay eggs.
Sea Turtle Inc. cares for stunned and resident sea turtles year-round, and they are asking for the public’s financial help in rehabilitating these turtles.