More than 1,000 sea turtles have been rescued in Florida waters in recent days - all victims of record-breaking, below-normal temperatures.
Sea turtles, which are reptiles, become lethargic and their internal organs and bodily functions can be hindered or shut down altogether when water temperatures drop low enough, according to a press release from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.
Mote has been receiving cold-stunned turtles since Thursday, Jan. 7.
"Cold stun" happens when the temperature of the water drops below the sea turtle’s normal body temperature, according to a press release from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The turtle’s metabolic rate drops and they stop swimming and eating, and end up floating.
At last count, CMA was caring for 41 sea turtles suffering from cold stun.
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delivered on Jan. 8 eight sea turtles to CMA. The turtles were among more than 90 found floating in the Mosquito Lagoon in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Turtles inhabiting local waters also are suffering from the frigid waters. CMA staff rescued a female loggerhead from north Clearwater Beach on Friday. CMA received an additional five turtles Monday morning. Two came from Honeymoon Island, one from Caladesi, one from Belleair Beach and one from Clearwater Beach.
CMA officials said the 14 turtles brought in Monday afternoon also were found in local waters: Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Belleair Beach, Clearwater Beach, Indian Shores and Anclote Key.
Several turtles have died from the cold. CMA reported that three sea turtles were found dead on Monday morning. Mote reported that four of the turtles received on Thursday had to be euthanized and another seven died over the weekend.
CMA is asking the public’s help to care for the sea turtles. An Emergency Sea Turtle Fund was set up for the turtles that are stranding because of cold stun. For donation information, visit www.SeeWinter.com.
CMA sent out a thank you on Monday to AquaCal, a local pool supply company, for loaning $45,000 worth of heaters and chillers to help CMA accommodate (and keep warm) as many sea turtles as possible. The equipment is also allowing CMA to heat Winter and Panama’s pool during these record cool temperatures.
CMA is a working animal hospital dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals.
Report marine animals in distress
Report stranded or dead manatee or a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle by calling the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).