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Cold-Stunned Green Sea Turtles Return to Wild 

February 26, 2007

Earl Nottingham, Texas PWD

Austin, Texas About 90 green sea turtles that washed up on South Texas beaches stunned by cold weather in January were transported Feb. 20-21 by truck from fish hatchery and aquarium facilities in Corpus Christi to the Port Isabel area and released back into the wild in the Lower Laguna Madre.

On Jan. 23, about 50 sea turtles arrived at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center fish hatchery operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Flour Bluff just outside Corpus Christi on the way to Padre Island. The following day, about 40 more turtles were taken to the Texas State Aquarium near downtown Corpus Christi.

A sudden drop in water temperature caused by an arctic cold front had stunned the turtles. Scientists and volunteers with Sea Turtle, Inc. in South Padre Island rescued turtles that began washing up on area beaches, but the numbers quickly overflowed STIs facility.

Biologists with TPWD, Padre Island National Seashore and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped transport many of the turtles to larger facilities in the Corpus Christi. The team used fish hatchery trucks hauling trailers with water live wells typically used for stocking redfish and trout into coastal bays, as well as SUVs carrying turtles wrapped in blankets.

In the weeks since their rescue, the turtles were cared for and fed in warmer indoor tanks and aquarium facilities and were finally ready to return to the wild.

Early Feb. 20, TPWD biologists and technicians loaded about 50 turtles into live well trailers at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center in Flour Bluff near Corpus Christi. The next day, staff and volunteers transported turtles from the Texas State Aquarium to Port Isabel.

Both days, the turtles were transferred to TPWDs research vessel Trinity Bay, taken out in the afternoon and released in the Intracoastal Waterway a few miles north of the Queen Isabella causeway, an area from which the turtles could readily access intracoastal bay seagrass habitat. Colleys Fins to Feathers tour boat service volunteered to take news reporters and photographers out to see the turtle release.

 

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