Thousands of Rescued Sea Turtles Returned to Ocean Following Winter Storm in Texas

Meghan Overdeep
·2 min read

Thousands of Rescued Sea Turtles Returned to Ocean Following Winter Storm in Texas

“We still have lots of work to do, but we are rejuvenated with passion at having seen our first released turtles swim away.”

Roughly a week after thousands of comatose turtles were rescued from the freezing waters off the Texas coast, volunteers have begun the process of returning the rehabilitated creatures back to the sea.

Sea Turtle Inc. in South Padre Island, which saved the lives of more than 5,000 cold-stunned sea turtles, shared a video of their efforts on Facebook Sunday.

"After an exhaustive 24-hour effort that went through the night and has just ended this morning, Sea Turtle Inc. was successfully able to release more than 2,200 previously cold-stunned turtles into the open ocean of the Gulf of Mexico," the nonprofit wrote alongside the clip. "We still have lots of work to do, but we are rejuvenated with passion at having seen our first released turtles swim away."

In Corpus Christi, Texas Sealife Center is celebrating the successful release of approximately 300 of their cold-stunned sea turtle patients.

"The turtles were released offshore, about 12 miles into the Gulf of Mexico in warm water, where the temperature is more stable," the organization explained on Facebook.

The severe winter weather that left many in the state without heat, power, and water resulted in what Dr. Donna Shaver, Texas Coordinator of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, describes as the largest cold-stunning event in Texas history.

Sea turtles are especially susceptible to cold stunning if water temperatures fall below 50 degrees. Frigid temperatures cause a turtle's heart rate to lower and its flippers to become paralyzed.

"Cold stunning can be fatal as sea turtles become lethargic, experiencing decreased circulation and slowing of other body functions," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains on its website. "Cold-stunned sea turtles are more likely to be hit by boats, eaten by predators, become sick, or die as their bodies shut down."

Thank you for saving these precious lives!