Texas Sea Turtle Rescue

Crystal Kalin

Following an unexpected winter storm in Texas nearly half a million people remained without power on Thursday morning (February 18th). On the Sunday of that week volunteers in Texas rescued thousands of sea turtles from frigid waters and shores during the storm and worked diligently to protect them while Texas remained without power.

The Texas crisis was the result of two severe winter storms beginning the week of February 11th progressing all the way to February 17th. Many residents in Texas were affected by the severe cold, forcing many to go out to shelters and homes to seek warmth. Unfortunately the cold weather did not only affect the residents but the cold-blooded animals like sea turtles who rely on heat to regulate their body temperatures. The cold weather destroyed them causing their heart rates to slow, rendering them paralyzed but luckily still conscious.

One of the main challenges the rescuers encountered was the fact that most of the rescue centers in Texas had run out of power for days. Luckily, Executive Director, Wendy Knight, informed the rescue team that it’s critical to warm up cold-stunned turtles gradually. Even though the buildings had no heat, being inside on a tarp was significantly warmer than being in the water. If the sea turtle rescue didn’t take place the island’s sea turtle population would have been completely wiped out which would completely erase the decades of hard work done by the conservation to protect the population. The conservation assumed their efforts would be to protect the turtles from what they assumed would be boat strikes and net entanglement. However, the members could have never guessed they would be rescuing thousands of turtles due to an unexpected winter storm.

According to an article by National Geographic’s Gina McLellan, a longtime volunteer with Sea Turtle, Inc., went down to the beach and loaded up dozens of turtles in her Subaru station wagon to bring them to help. Surprisingly it wasn’t solely the rescuers and volunteers who were helping to load the turtles but dozens of residents- men and women, strong and weak, who also came with cars to load the turtles. On Tuesday afternoon, February 16th, McLellan reported there was a 400-yard line of cars outside the convention center, each car bearing turtles. News reporters and rescue teams were overwhelmed by the emotional help and attitude of the residents who helped and reassured the rescue team in time of need.

Executive Director Knight says she’s been in awe at the outpouring of support from South Padre residents. “We have people who have not had power or water in their own homes in three to four days working 15 to 18 hours a day to save turtles. The gas stations in Texas were out of gas, grocery stores out of water, and still people were showing up. According to Sea Turtle Inc, “Turtles can survive after they have been stunned by cold weather.” meaning that they will most likely be released back into the wild. Although the Texas storm left many devastated and will still leave an everlasting memory for everyone, Texans are proud to say that as a community with the sacrifice and work done by the rescue teams and residents who love and care for their country, they were able to rescue their beloved sea turtles.