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Recent freeze caused largest cold-stunned sea turtle event in recorded history, preliminary numbers say

So far during the winter of 2020-2021, about 11,591 cold stunned turtles have been recorded in Texas, Padre Island National Seashore officials say.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The hard freeze that occurred across Texas last week had a dramatic effect on sea turtles on the Texas coast. The cold temperatures caused the largest cold-stunning event recorded in the U.S. since the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network was established in 1980. 

On February 24, 885 cold-stunned sea turtles were found in Texas. Unfortunately, all 885 turtles were found dead. This included 1 in Aransas Bay, 882 in the Upper Laguna Madre, and two in the Lower Laguna Madre.

So far this winter, about 11,591 cold-stunned turtles have been found in Texas, including about 11,499 from the current event and 92 from a brief event on January 11-15 when 92 turtles were located alive, the numbers say. 

The number of turtles found during this winter storm more than doubles the previous highest U.S. number recorded in Florida in 2010.

The Padre Island National Seashore also offered details on the more than 4,200 turtles rehabilitated and released:

  • On February 21-22, 2,246 green turtles and 2 loggerheads found cold stunned in and near the Lower Laguna Madre during the last week and rehabilitated, were released into the Gulf of Mexico offshore from South Padre Island. 
  • On February 22, 1,066 green turtles found cold stunned in and near the Upper Laguna Madre and Corpus Christi Bay during the last week and rehabilitated, were released into the Gulf of Mexico offshore from Mustang Island.
  • On February 23, 920 green turtles found cold stunned in and near the Upper Laguna Madre and Corpus Christi Bay during the last week and rehabilitated, were released into the Gulf of Mexico offshore from Mustang Island.
  • On February 23, 25 green turtles found cold stunned on the upper Texas coast last week and rehabilitated, were released into the Gulf of Mexico offshore from Galveston Island.

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