The Panhandle has seen some unusually cold temperatures this week, causing the St. Joe Bay to reach temperatures below 50 degrees.

Which Gulf World’s Senior Veterinarian, Julie Cavin, said can be too cold for many sea turtle to handle.

“They are cold-blooded animals so their body temperature gets too cold for their systems to function so they sort of shut down,” she said.

When this happens the turtles can be found floating in the water or washed up on shore, so crews from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) and the U.S. Geological Survey have rescued more than 200 cold-stunned turtles and delivered them to Gulf World for treatment.    

“We’ll do exams on them to make sure they are responsive, and at least somewhat active, and give them medications, emergency medications, that are needed to the turtles that are not responsive,” Cavin said.

Cavin said they will give responsive sea turtles fluids, then put them in 65 degree water to help warm them up. 

“Often times as soon as we put them in the water they will start breathing better and swimming,” she said. “We have turtles that are in the water now that are sleeping on the bottom, which is what they should do. They’re swimming normally, breathing normally.”

While they anticipate to treat more than 300 turtles by the end of the week, Cavin said they are hoping the turtles will be well enough to release back into warmer areas of the gulf next week.

Gulf World is accepting donations of towels, blankets, sheets, and kiddie pools, which can be dropped off at Gulf World’s gift shop on Front Beach Road.