With the holidays and winter weather on its way, what happens to the sea turtles?
Even though Florida waters typically stay warmer than the rest of the United States, there are sea turtles who are still affected by the chilled ocean temperatures even that far south. However, sea turtles who find themselves swimming through colder water in northern regions may encounter "cold-stunning" a lot more often.
What is "cold stunning?"
is when a sea turtle goes into a hypodermic state that occurs when they are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. This includes a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy. This is often followed by shock, pneumonia, and possibly death if not treated in time.
Since Sea Turtles are naturally cold-blooded reptiles, they depend on external sources of heat which determines their body temperature. In colder water, they are unable to get the warmth they need to warm themselves, and must migrate to warmer waters to avoid cold stunning.
In Massachusetts alone, there are between 50-200 sea turtles that encounter cold stunning every winter season. In addition to Massachusetts turtles, New York and other northern states also experience cold stunned sea turtles on their beaches. While any sea turtle can be affected by cold stunning, the most common are the Kemp's Ridley, Loggerheads, and Green Sea Turtles. Luckily, there is a solution! Sea Turtle Rescues are contacted every year and save hundreds of cold stunned sea turtles. These turtles are rehabilitated in Sea Turtle Research and Rescue programs and released into warmer water regions.
This holiday season, let us not forgot about our favorite creature in the ocean!
If you are at the beach and see a sea turtle that is not moving, lethargic, or seems to be struggling, please contact your local Sea Turtle Conservation or Sea Turtle Rescue because they may be cold stunned and in need of help. Thank you again, devotees, for helping to make it possible for sea turtles to enjoy not only their summer months in the ocean, but their winter months too!