ARK Rehabilitating About 250 Turtles Affected by Cold Shock

During the recent cold spell, the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue sea turtles affected by the chilling temperatures. These turtles, known for their vulnerability to cold, become inactive and lose their ability to swim effectively when water temperatures plunge below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This situation often leads to them being washed ashore or requiring rescue by boaters.

ARK, in partnership with the Mid Coast Sea Turtle Rescue, is currently rehabilitating approximately 250 sea turtles. According to ARK’s Staff Director, Andrew Orgill, many of these turtles have been brought in from the Port O’Connor area thanks to the efforts of Keep Aransas County Beautiful and the Mid Coast Sea Turtle Rescue network. These organizations have been actively rescuing the turtles from the bays around Port O’Connor.

The rescue operation saw a remarkable mobilization of volunteers who transported the turtles to Port Aransas. On January 18, they used seven cars and a U-Haul van for this purpose, with even more turtles being delivered the following day, January 19.
This recent rescue operation, though significant, pales compared to the event three years ago in 2021. ARK took in approximately 1,400 turtles during that year, with about 900 surviving the ordeal.

The rehabilitation process for these turtles at ARK is detailed and carefully managed. The turtles are placed in a specially heated room where their body temperature is gradually increased at a controlled rate. This gradual increase is crucial to prevent further shock to their systems. After 24 hours in this environment, the turtles undergo a “swim test” to evaluate their readiness for release. This test involves monitoring each turtle to ensure they can lift their heads, breathe, and swim adequately. Once they pass this test, they are kept in tanks for a few days until they are ready to be released back into the Gulf, contingent on suitable water temperatures.

Orgill, along with his team and the volunteers at ARK, has expressed immense gratitude towards all the partners and individuals who assisted in transporting and caring for these cold-stunned turtles. Their collective effort has been pivotal in saving a large number of turtles.

Orgill also noted that with the rising temperatures, they do not expect many more turtles to be affected by the cold. However, he urges anyone who encounters a cold-stunned turtle washed up on shore to contact the statewide rescue hotline at 1-866-TURTLE5 for assistance.
The efforts of ARK and its partners in this challenging time highlight the importance of community involvement and cooperation in wildlife conservation. The successful rehabilitation of these sea turtles is a testament to the dedication and commitment of all those involved in the rescue and recovery.

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