This is the second largest cold-stunning event in the Florida Panhandle since 2010, when approximately 1,800 sea turtles were rehabilitated.
PANAMA CITY — More than 850 “cold stunned” sea turtles have been brought into Gulf World Marine Institute since a cold snap descended on the area Jan. 2.
Sam Tuno, spokeswoman for Gulf World, said this is the second largest cold-stunning event in the Florida Panhandle since 2010, when approximately 1,800 sea turtles were rehabilitated.
Last week, Gulf World said it had been expecting to bring in around 300 sea turtles due to the recent cold weather event, but since has far surpassed that number.
“We have significantly more large sea turtles this time around than we did in 2010,” Tuno said. “So we don’t have as many, but the sizes are definitely much bigger.”
Sea turtles can become cold stunned — when their bodies go into shock due to frigid temperatures — when the waters get below 50 degrees in shallow bays and estuaries.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, United States Geological Survey and Gulf World Marine Institute have collaborated in the search, rescue, transport and rehabilitation of the sea turtles, most of which have come from St. Joe Bay in Panama City, Tuno said.
The three species that have entered rehab include the Kemp’s Ridley, Green and Loggerhead sea turtles.
Tuno said the majority of the animals are “doing well,” while a small number are suffering secondary illnesses, like pneumonia, for which they are being treated.
“We’re going to lose statistically between 5 and 10 percent of the turtles, but the majority of them will be okay,” Tuno said. “A large amount of them will be released pretty quickly.”
The first release of the four-flippered patients into the Gulf of Mexico will be conducted pending warmer weather.
Tuno said officials were monitoring a second cold snap expected later this week that could send more turtles their way.