Extreme Weather Threatens Sea Turtle Population, Humans Respond

The extreme cold weather that recently enveloped much of the country left millions without power and water in areas where such weather has historically been rare. Similarly, wildlife in these areas have had to quickly adapt to the cold. For cold-blooded animals like sea turtles, this is no small feat. When water or ambient temperatures drop below a certain level, cold-blooded animals are unable to regulate their body temperature and while they remain conscious, their bodies become paralyzed. This is particularly worrisome for sea turtles, which are air-breathing species that spend their lives at sea. Approximately 7,000 sea turtles along the Texas coast have required rescue due to this condition, commonly referred to as a cold stun. Nearly 5,000 of these turtles were collected in the South Padre Island area alone and have been under the care of Sea Turtle, Inc. while being housed at their rescue facility and the South Padre Island Convention. If you are interested in helping or learning more about Sea Turtle, Inc., you can visit their website at https://seaturtleinc.org/.

Since 2010, Seabrook Island has averaged just under five sea turtle stranding events per year. This includes both live and dead strandings due to various causes. While cold stunned strandings are possible here, they have not been common. As recent events show, however, extreme weather can change this quickly.

The Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol has multiple team members certified by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to respond to sea turtle stranding events. If you encounter a stranded sea turtle on our beach, please contact the SC DNR at (800) 922-5431 or the SI Turtle Patrol at (843) 310-4280. For additional information, visit siturtlepatrol.com or search for Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol on Facebook or Instagram.

-Submitted by Joshua Shilko

(Image credit: Sea Turtle, Inc.)

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