• Volunteers are working to save thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles amid the cold snap
  • Turtles are cold-blooded, so they are susceptible to frigid temperatures
  • Cold-stunned turtles are also more likely to get hit by boats and eaten by predators

Millions across the U.S. are struggling with the winter storm that has claimed lives and caused power outages. In Texas, even the sea turtles have not been spared from the frigid temperatures.

Thousands of cold-stunned turtles have so far been rescued by volunteers, many of whom also don't have access to heat and other amenities. Conservation group Sea Turtle Inc., which has been helping rescue the sea turtles, has already reached capacity with thousands of rescued sea turtles being delivered by the volunteers. Even the neighboring South Padre Island Convention Center has lent a hand in the rescue attempt despite not having power or water until Wednesday morning.

"Every 15 minutes or less there's another truck or SUV that pulls up," South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, Ed Caum, told The Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday. "We had trailers full yesterday coming in that had 80, 100, 50."

As of Wednesday morning, Sea Turtle Inc. told CBS News that it had rescued over 4,000 turtles.

"This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas and we are overly grateful for the support," Sea Turtle Inc. said in a Facebook post. "All your donations are helping us pull through."

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

On Wednesday morning, SpaceX also pitched in to the effort by sending a generator that was large enough to provide heat for the turtles.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

"This is what putting passion into action means and the service they provided us this morning will save countless turtles and will be something we are truly grateful for," Sea Turtle Inc. Executive Director Wendy Knight said.

Cold-Stunned Turtles

Sea turtles are cold-blooded creatures, which means that their body temperatures also depend on the temperatures of their surrounding environment. To control their body temperature, they move around to different locations with varying temperatures, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explained.

But when it's too cold and the turtles have no access to warmer waters, sea turtles can experience cold stunning, which the NOAA said is a type of hypothermia. When this happens, the sea turtles become lethargic and experience a slowing down of body functions. Cold stunning may even lead to shock, pneumonia or death, Turtle Island Restoration Network said.

Apart from the dangers posed by the cold temperature, because the turtles get "stunned," they also become more likely to get hit by boats, get stranded and targeted by predators.

During cold stunning events, volunteers rescue the sea turtles from the cold temperatures and warm them up slowly until they are fully recovered and ready to be released.

According to the NOAA, there are annual stunning events in three primary locations in the U.S.—Massachusetts, Florida and Texas—although they can also happen in other locations. From December 2017 to January 2018, for instance, over 3,500 cold-stunned turtles were rescued. At that time, it was considered to be the largest cold stunning event in Texas.

"The green sea turtle is protected as a threatened species by both the state of Texas and the federal government," National Park Service said on why it rescues cold-stunned turtles instead of letting nature "take its course." "Even though their population is growing, their numbers are still too low to afford losses."

Sea Turtles
Picture: Sea turtles climbing onto a beach. Wikimedia Commons