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Eran Hami joins Sea Tow Corpus Christi in search for cold-stunned turtles

Posted at 7:27 PM, Feb 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 20:31:48-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Brandon Upton and Scott Gunvordahl loaded into an air boat Saturday morning at Bluff's Landing Marina. They were getting ready to spend their day off work, helping to rescue cold-stunned turtles.

Upton and his team with Sea Tow Corpus Christi have been doing this, when the situation arises, since 2016.

"The turtles don’t - they can’t ask for help, so," Upton said, owner of Sea Tow. "We just take it upon ourselves to go out in the worst conditions and do what we can to help.”

The cold weather has lingered for more than a day when Saturday arrived. More cold-stunned turtles started coming to the surface.

“When the cold stuns first start most the turtles still kind of bob in the water, said Upton. "Go and pluck most of what we can out of the water. And then, they get to the point where they’re so lethargic and they can’t swim. And they start washing up on the banks of spoil islands. At that point we transition our effort….And start walking around and trudging through mud and sand and put them on the boats."

Upton's first run of the day included scouting the spoil islands heading south along Padre Island. They were able to rescue around 50 turtles before heading to Padre Island National Seashore (PINS).

There, they meet with other organizations and volunteers to drop of the rescued turtles.

“It is so heartwarming to see the outpouring of different agencies," said Donna Shaver, chief of PINS division of sea turtle science and recovery. "Federal, state, local agencies and our volunteers with Padre Island National Seashore turtle program and members of the public.”

"Words can’t describe," Upton said. "We don’t get anything for this other than the feel good, knowing that we are doing something for an endangered species.

As of mid-afternoon Saturday, Shaver said at least 150 turtles had been found. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department notified KRIS 6 News they found 30 turtles.

After all the turtles arrive at PINS, they'll get an initial health exam.

“We have three local rehabilitation facilities that we’ll pass these turtles out to, depending on who’s got space at their facility at any given time of the intake process,” said Shaver.

If you find a cold-stunned turtle, you're encouraged to report it to 1-866-TURTLE5.

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