PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Gulf World Marine Institute received 141 Christmas gifts this past weekend.
The sub-freezing temperatures in the air caused water temperatures to fall below 50° degrees in Saint Andrews and Port Saint Joe Bay, causing local sea turtle populations to be at risk of becoming cold-stunned.
Cold stunning for a sea turtle is like hypothermia for a human being.
Gulf World Stranding Coordinator, Lauren Albrittain said, “It is definitely not the biggest cold-stunning event that we have had. The largest was 1800, followed by a 1200 turtle event. So just over a hundred is not too bad.” However, 141 is still a lot to take care of.
A majority of the cold-stunned turtles that come into GWMI will be just fine, they just need some time to warm up.
“They get dry docked at first and brought to a temperature threshold. We usually start them at about 65, 67, or something like that,” said Albrittain. “Once they have reached that temperature usually overnight from the day they’re brought in. Then we do what’s called a water test and that basically means we put them into water that’s a little bit warmer.”
The process might remind you of how a brand new pet goldfish needs to get used to its tank, so you stick its bag in the new water, so it will warm gradually. The same goes for sea turtles.
However, some turtles can be in bad shape, needing around-the-clock care. Albrittain added, “If they start behaving poorly if they’re lethargic if they’ve got injuries, things like that, those turtles then become what we consider ICU or critical care patients.”
For the turtles who pass the water test, the goal is to get them back into the Gulf as soon as possible. Gulf World employees said after the turtles are tagged, some turtles could be released as early as this week.
This may not be the last cold stunning event of the winter, if you see a turtle struggling in the wild, make sure to call FWC at #FWC or 1-(888)-404-3922.