Thousands of Sea Turtles Immobilized by Brutal Texas Winter Storm

Volunteers have been working around the clock to rescue the animals found stunned on the beach.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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Feb 18, 2021

The winter storm that has slammed Texas this week, leaving millions without power and running water and more than a dozen people dead, is also harming animals. As The Washington Post reports, the drastic temperature dip has rendered countless endangered green sea turtles off of the Texas Gulf Coast comatose. The cold-blooded animals need water temperatures above 10 °C to maintain normal bodily function. The abnormally cold temperatures brought in by the storm have significantly slowed their heartrates and left them unable to swim. 

Since Sunday (February 14), volunteers with Sea Turtle, Inc, a conservation and rescue group on South Padre Island, have relocated thousands of the cold-stunned animals to a nearby convention center. Using small pools and tarps, the crew is working to gradually increase the animals’ body temperatures, an effort made much more difficult by the lack of electricity. Yesterday (February 17), Wendy Knight, Sea Turtle, Inc’s executive director, announced that a commercial generator was provided by SpaceX, allowing the turtles to have heat and filtered water.

The group aims to release the turtles as soon as the water is warm enough to do so safely. It is still too soon to tell how many of the sea turtles will succumb to the effects of the cold.