SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The colder weather is bringing complications for the sea turtle population in the Laguna Madre.
The drastic drops in temperatures are having a negative impact on the Atlantic green sea turtles residing in the bay.
Temperatures dropping below 50 degrees put the turtles at risk of becoming cold-stunned, a hypothermatic reaction that renders the reptiles immobile and can lead to death.
Due to concerns from boaters who have been encountering cold-stunned sea turtles, Sea Turtle Inc. will be hosting an information session about the dos and don’ts of rescuing the creatures.
Sea Turtle Inc. assistant curator Kat Lillie said the training is specifically geared toward boaters and boat captains who might find the turtles floating on top of the water in the bay.
“Because it seems to be a real cold winter, we want to make sure everyone is prepared,” Lillie said.
According to Lillie, the most important thing for anyone who sees a cold-stunned sea turtle is to call the organization immediately and wait for further instructions.
So far, more than 60 turtles have been brought to Sea Turtle Inc. for rehabilitation after becoming cold-stunned.
The majority of them were released earlier this month, with a dozen that stayed behind for extra care.
Lillie said the number of cold-stunned turtles brought in varies from year to year.
Some winters can pass with no turtles being harmed.
In years such as 2011, as many as 900 turtles can be called in over a short, five-day period.
“It all depends on the winters and population of green sea turtles in the bay,” Lillie said.
Because cold-stunned turtles are motionless and tend to float on top of the bay or wash up on shore, they can seem dead even though they are still very much alive.
“Sometimes you really can’t tell, they both just float at the top and are motionless,” Lillie said.
Whether dead or cold-stunned, Lillie said all sea turtles found or seen in this state should be called in.
January will mark the first information session specifically designed for boat captains and boaters.
There will be two sessions during the training with 30 spots available for each and is completely free to boaters and boat captains wanting to help the sea turtle population.
“Community support is extremely important in helping the sea turtles,” Lillie said.