Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Stunned Turtles Hit Record of 1,040 (Via Herp Digest)

Stunned Turtles Hit Record of 1,040 - Volunteers Scramble to Find Places to Keep Them
By Mike Naird, Rhiannon, Valley Morning Star, TX

February 5, 2011 - CORPUS CHRISTI - Forty-two motionless turtles blanketed the floor of a bait shop along JFK Memorial Causeway.

"One that was marked dead came alive," said Kevin Weatherbee, who spent Friday and Saturday rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles, sometimes wading into chilly water along the causeway, in the largest such event since 1980.

A record-breaking 1,040 cold-stunned green sea turtles have been rescued since Thursday, topping a record set last year when 450 were found, said Donna Shaver, division chief of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.

"We're snowed under with sea turtles," she said.

So was Weatherbee.

When Texas Parks and Wildlife officials walked over the closed causeway Friday to retrieve turtles, they found the Red Dot Pier bait shop, which Weatherbee was watching for a family member, filled with them.

There were so many that he ran out of blankets and towels to wrap each one.

Because turtles are reptiles with a body temperature that fluctuates with the temperature of their environment, cold stuns the turtles. It leaves them motionless, and they float to the surface. If not found soon enough, they die.

"They're coldblooded creatures, but the water was 40.2 degrees, so cold they can't raise their heads out of the water and they drown," Weatherbee said. "It's hard not to try to help when you see these creatures in distress. It's the right thing to do."

Shaver said rescuers have been scrambling to find places to rehabilitate the turtles.
"We've had hundreds of volunteers find more turtles in two days than have been found on the Texas coast in any individual year," Shaver said.

Unlike the cold-stunning event in January 2010, many of the turtles found since Thursday are alive, and have a good chance at survival, Shaver said.

"We're working really hard and I feel optimistic at this point that we've done a really good job," Shaver said. "Those turtles are going to get back out into the wild, safe and sound, in a few weeks."

Shaver said three factors contributed to the high numbers of cold-stunned turtles: This cold snap was more severe than the one in January 2010, the juvenile green sea turtle population has been growing and volunteers have been scouring beaches for them since the cold snap started.

Some rescued turtles have been moved to Animal Rehabilitation Keep in Port Aransas to be warmed and rehabilitated. Others have been moved to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Marine Development Center in Flour Bluff and the Texas State Aquarium.

The Port Aransas group had 42 turtles in kiddie pools Saturday, Director Tony Amos said.
"We're getting pretty full and are exploring other avenues," Amos said. "We have always taken animals when we're past capacity, and we'll find a way somehow."

Turtle tips

-- Report stranded, cold-stunned turtles immediately by calling the Padre Island National Seashore Turtle Lab at 361-949-8173, extensions 226 or 228. If calling after business hours, dial 361-851-4255.

-- Immediately remove the turtle from the wind and cold water. Try to cover it with a dry towel or blanket to prevent further damage from the wind chill. If the animal is too heavy or too difficult to reach, do not attempt to recover it alone. Wait until help arrives.

-- Do not warm the turtle too quickly, as rapidly raising its core temperature can be dangerous or fatal. Be careful not to impede the weakened turtle's ability to breathe.

-- Try to keep a log of where you found the turtle and note any identifying characteristics (barnacles, injuries, missing flipper, size) so officials can tell them apart, once recovered. Photographs also can help with the identification.

Source: Padre Island National Seashore Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery

No comments:

Post a comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails