The turtles have been loaded into the back of a Subaru. They’ve been laid out in row after row on the deck of a ship. And the stunned creatures have been arrayed by the thousands in buildings without power amid the powerful winter storm that has blasted Texas with frigid temperatures this week.
Wildlife groups and volunteers have pulled thousands of threatened sea turtles from the waters off the Texas coast in recent days amid the paralyzing storm.
Dramatic photos show turtles hauled from frigid waters, suffering from what’s known as cold-stunning. The phenomenon happens when a sea turtle faces long exposure to cold water temperatures, often below 50 degrees. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that cold-stunned turtles “become lethargic and are eventually unable to swim causing them to float at the surface.”
My mom is retired, & she spends her winters volunteering at a sea turtle rescue center in south Texas. The cold snap is stunning the local turtles & they’re doing a lot of rescues. She sent me this photo today of the back of her Subaru. It’s *literally* turtles all the way down. pic.twitter.com/xaDRNjLDoQ
— Lara (@lara_hand) February 15, 2021
Texas Game Wardens assigned to Cameron county rescued 141 sea turtles from the frigid waters of the Brownsville Ship Channel and surrounding bays. The sea turtles were transported via the PV Murchison, operated by Sgt. Game Warden Duke and B/M Bowers-Vest. pic.twitter.com/LqFBrElTog
— Texas Game Warden (@TexasGameWarden) February 17, 2021
Widespread events can affect hundreds or thousands of turtles at a time, and if they are not returned to warmer waters or rescued, they can become seriously ill and die.
Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit animal rescue group on Texas’ South Padre Island, said Tuesday it had rescued more than 2,500 turtles in recent days. Wildlife volunteers have packed as many turtles as they can into the backs of their cars to ferry them to care facilities. When Sea Turtle Inc. ran out of space, the group began using South Padre Island’s convention center as an overflow site to help nurse them back to health.
Wendy Knight, the executive director of Sea Turtle Inc., said it was the largest cold-stun event in more than a decade. But she warned Monday that conditions were dire. Like millions of Texans, the facilities housing the turtles lost power after the storm caused the state’s power grid to nearly collapse.
She said many of the animals the group had rescued could soon die if power isn’t restored.
“All of these efforts will be in vain if we do not soon get power restored,” Knight said in a video on Facebook. “We need our power back on.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.