CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - A new state record has been set for the number of cold-stunned sea turtles found up and down the Texas coastline, according to the Padre Island National Seashore.
What's worse -- the numbers are continuing to grow.
An army of volunteers have been working to document, measure, weigh and tag the cold-stunned turtles at the Padre Island National Seashore, and they expect to see even more in the next day or so.
They're bringing in green sea turtles who otherwise would have died in the frigid waters. Since early December, when the area began to see freezing weather, there have been more than 2,500 turtles found floating around in the Laguna Madre and other back bays.
"We've received a lot of national and international attention because of the cold-stunning event in Texas this year," said Dr. Donna Shaver, chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science for the Padre Island National Seashore. "We're already up to more than 2,500 green sea turtles found cold stunned this winter in Texas."
Many people understand that the cold weather hits the turtles hard, but why are so many showing up now and not in past years when it was as cold?
"Many turtles are now coming into the Laguna Madre because of the Packery Channel," Shaver said. "After Packery Channel was dredged, this is a very attractive habitat for sea turtles."
Easy access to the Laguna Madre was the result of that dredging project and researchers believe that all those turtles feeding on seagrasses there could be helping the ecosystem.
"It's not a bad thing for the seagrasses, and in fact, there are some studies that show the grazing effects of sea turtles on seagrasses can make the seagrasses more productive," Shaver said.
However, the lure of those seagrasses is bad news for the turtles for the next month. Some of our coldest weather takes place in February and the worst of that may not be over until Valentine's Day; and that's not a heartwarming prospect for anyone to hear right now -- a fourth of the turtles that are found end up dying.
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