CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — After numerous sea turtle rescues made throughout the weekdue to the bitter cold chilling the Coastal Bend’s waters, at least 300 sea turtles are expected to be released back to their homes Monday morning, weather permitting.
“Numbers of this amount are obviously not normal,” said Amanda Terry, Texas Sealife Center’s Director of Rehabilitation.
Terry estimates that they’ve encountered roughly 500 sea turtles as a result of this past week’s drastic temperature change.
“Last winter, we had a small cold snap and we had around 40 turtles last year,” she said. “It’s the same process — just a lot more numbers.”
The Sealife Center was noticeably full of sea turtles in different stages of recovery. A large blue tarp draped across their main floor was home to dozens of turtles that lie still. After about 24 hours, Terry said they are then moved into tanks of temperature-controlled water by volunteers.
“Because they’re going to be going out into cooler water, so we don’t want to shock them,” Terry said. “But when they’re active enough, we do swim tests on everybody, put everybody out on the water, see how they do.”
For the handful of sea turtles that don’t pass, they are then taken back inside and given another day. With Monday appearing to be a promising release date, Terry said it’s a relief to see that they will soon be able to send many turtles back into the gulf.
“This is a very rewarding day to get our floors mostly clear of animals and everyone swimming happily in the tanks and (to see) everybody, for the most part, doing well,” she said.
Joshua Hunter and Misty Maguire have been volunteering at the Center for five years. Even with both having worked with sea turtles during cold snaps, they said it was a noticeable increase for them.
“It was record-breaking so far,” Maguire said. “Our area didn’t see as much as South Padre, but we still saw a lot. Especially for the size of our facility.”
Terry said volunteers have been working on this operation since Valentine’s Day. An added struggle for her and others during the situation was the lack of electricity and concerns around transportation.
“We had volunteers that were sleeping here because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to come back to help, so we got air mattresses,” she said. “People slept here for a couple of days, so it’s been an experience.”
Despite the challenges associated with the record-breaking cold temperatures, Hunter said it was important for him to help however he could.
“Sea turtles are so relatable. They’re so much fun,” Hunter said. “It’s the little part that kind of does tug on our community heartstrings. And so — to kind of rally around and maybe help someone else — is a Texan thing to do.”
The Texas Sealife Center is a nonprofit. If you would like to help support them, visit the help tab on their website.