One local non-profit is helping turtles affected by the dropping temperatures up North

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - As the cold weather approaches, some animals can’t regulate their body temperatures. When the waters up north get too cold, turtles get stunned and are often sent to Gulf World Marine Institute in Panama City Beach for rehab.

“Their bodies work to maintain their core vitals so they maintain everything internally, but that means their appendages kind of stop moving, they stop swimming quickly, they become what we call lethargic or generally tired,” Gulf World Marine Institute’s Stranding Coordinator Lauren Albrittain said.

This particular group of 17 turtles was flown down from the New England Aquarium in Massachusetts over the weekend. The turtles will go through rehabilitation and as soon as they’re feeding and swimming normally and all of their medical values check out, they’ll be released back into the wild. To put it into perspective of just how big these turtle pools are, each turtle gets their own 100 gallon pool, but each pool can be divided in half to hold two turtles if there’s a need.

Concerns for cold stunned turtles begin when water temperatures drop to 50 degrees or lower. Albrittain said this is when people usually find them washed up on the beach alive, but unable to move.

“They actually have teams every season once the temperature hits the right threshold. They go out everyday looking for these turtles when they know they could possibly be there,” said Albrittain.

Director Secret Holmes-Douglas said if you do come across a cold stunned sea turtle, do not touch it.

“Do not push the animal back, the animal is in a comatose state. You need to call local authorities as soon as possible,” said Holmes-Douglas.

Holmes-Douglas said dial star or pound FWC on your phone to get connected to the correct local authorities.

Albrittain said cold stunned turtle season in New England starts at the earliest late October to the end of the year. She adds there are the occasional cold stunned turtles that come in from Florida, mostly from the St. Joe Bay, which tends to be around January and February.

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