Apalachicola NERR Staff and Volunteers Help Rescue 127 Cold- Stunned Turtles

turtle-collage_original_cropApalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve staff members, along with staff from the University of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff, and volunteers patrolled the southwest corner of St. Joe Bay on shore and by boat on January 29 and 30, 2014 to search and rescue cold-stunned sea turtles.

“The Florida Coastal Office works with partners to assist species that depend on our habitat management to live and reproduce,” said Kevin Claridge, Director of DEP’s Florida Coastal Office. “Sea turtles are so well loved we do everything we can to rescue them.”

Florida’s shallow bays and estuaries provide important habitats for threatened and endangered sea turtles. Apalachicola is home to adults and juveniles of three species of sea turtle: the loggerhead, green and Kemp’s Ridley.

Freezing rain, sleet, hail, and even a few snowflakes fell on Florida this week, which caused problems for both people and wildlife. For Florida’s sea turtles coming to the surface to breathe during a freeze can be life-threatening. Unlike marine mammals such as dolphins or manatees, sea turtles cannot keep themselves warm.

At very low temperatures, less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, sea turtles may become lethargic or “stunned.” When they become stunned they have difficulty moving through water and are pushed to marshy areas or could be found floating on the surface, which can cause death.

On Thursday and Friday, staff and volunteers rescued 127 cold-stunned turtles. Most were juvenile Green Turtles, but seven were the rare Kemp’s Ridley. The turtles were taken to nearby certified marine turtle rehabilitation centers. Typically rescued turtles survive the freeze to be released again to their home bays.

Earlier this month, Reserve staff and volunteers patrolled a similar area during another cold snap during which they rescued 47 turtles. Five of the rescued sea turtles were the rare Kemp’s Ridley.

For more information on the cold-stunning of Florida’s sea turtles click here.

For more information about the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve click here.

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