Did you know that when temperatures drop along the east coast of the US, the cold weather can actually stun sea turtles? Whenever these fast drops in temperatures occur, hundreds, if not thousands, of sea turtles can be found washed up on our shores ill, stunned, or even deceased. Because sea turtles are reptiles that rely on external sources of heat to maintain their necessary body temperature, this prolonged exposure to colder temperatures can cause their heart rate and circulation to decrease and become lethargic. Cold stunning can also cause shock, pneumonia, frostbite, and can lead to death if the sea turtle cannot migrate to warmer water in time.
Fortunately, cold stunned sea turtles can be rehabilitated. With the help of our partners, we are able to utilize our Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility to place these cold stunned turtles in dry tubs, warm them up slowly, and––once they are evaluated and deemed healthy––will be released back into the ocean.
In December 2020, cold stunned turtles were rescued in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and received treatment at the New England Aquarium before being flown to south Florida by Turtles Fly Too (Pilots: Dale & Lisa Dellacqua) to continue their recovery. So far this year, cold temperatures in the bay caused over 800 sea turtles to cold stun in the New England area. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities around the country are stepping up to help care for the stunned sea turtles and Gumbo Limbo’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility was thrilled to be a part of the national effort to save these endangered species.