Thousands of turtles have been rescued from freezing waters in Texas

Photo courtesy of Sea Turtle, Inc./ Facebook/ CNN

As Texas' deep freeze wreaks havoc on land, sea animals also suffer in its icy waters.

Posted: Feb 18, 2021 5:28 PM

CNN-- As Texas' deep freeze wreaks havoc on land, sea animals also suffer in its icy waters.

This week, more than 2,600 turtles have been rescued around South Padre Island at the southern tip of the state.

Volunteers and wildlife officials scouring bays and beaches for stranded turtles suffering from "cold-stun," a condition which inhibits turtles' mobility and often results in stranding.

Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit in South Padre Island, rescued more than 2,500 at-risk turtles from nearby waters. It's collecting hundreds by the day.

The facility, which already housed turtles in its hospital, rehabilitation and education centers, has been overwhelmed by the amount of rescues performed since temperatures dropped.

"We have been so pleased with the community acceptance," Wendy Knight, the executive director at Sea Turtle Inc. said in a Facebook video. "But all of these efforts will be in vain if we do not soon get power restored to our facility."

CNN has reached out to the organization, which is still suffering from power outages, and is awaiting a reply.

On Wednesday, Texas Game Wardens rescued at least 141 turtles from the Brownsville Ship Channel, near South Padre Island. Turtles of all sizes rested on the deck of its large rescue vessel and were taken to nearby facilities, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Megan Radke told CNN.

Turtles can't survive in extremely cold water

The rescue effort began immediately for the Texas Game Wardens and the team at Sea Turtle Inc., who knew that turtles -- unlike other

sea animals -- are unable to survive in extreme cold temperatures.

While animals like dolphins or manatees are able to regulate their body temperatures internally, sea turtles' body temperatures vary with surrounding water.

At very low temperatures, turtles can become cold-stunned.

According to the National Park Service, cold-stunned turtles are not able to move well. They become lethargic and often float to the surface or wash up onshore.

This can lead to death from shock or predation, or from boat strikes.

According to Sea Turtle Inc's Facebook page, the storm is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunning event to happen in south Texas.

With a new generator, turtles have hope, for now

On Wednesday, SpaceX provided Sea Turtle Inc. with a generator large enough to cover the organization's rehabilitation, education and conservation facilities, Knight said in a Facebook video.

Because of the generator, turtles already housed at the facilities, along with newcomers, have been able to warm up.

But the prolonged power outage has blown out all 10 of the facility's heaters and coolers, and each costs thousands of dollars to replace.

Despite this, the team at Sea Turtle, Inc. remains hopeful.

"For today, the sun is bright. SpaceX has provided us with a generator," Knight said. "And we are moving forward."

Animal casualties are on the rise in Texas

Turtles are not the only animals at risk in the winter storm.

This week, several animals -- mostly primates -- froze to death at a primate sanctuary in San Antonio.

The sanctuary, strapped for warming devices, evacuated animals to other facilities while trying to keep the rest as warm as possible with donated supplies.

As Sea Turtle Inc. is pushed to capacity, the organization has begun using the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau for more space.

They are asking for donations on their Facebook page, where they continues to issue updates.

Those who have found sea turtles are encouraged to call Sea Turtle Inc's emergency sea turtle line at 956-243-4361 or the Turtle Island Restoration Network at 1-866-TURTLE5.

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