A bad day outdoors is…

an adventure. fun. a learning experience.  all of the above!

I spent the day at a Texas Master Naturalist training. The day began with a training sponsored by the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) to teach volunteers how to help rescue cold stunned turtles. The Master Naturalist crew was just a tiny part of the 50+/- person crowd.

You can tell the dedication of nature lovers because we were all trying to breathe in spite of the air borne irritants put off by the algae that creates red tide. Anyone who has lived near an out break of red tide knows the perils of trying to breathe under those conditions. The seminar room sounded like a room in a 1920’s TB ward. And these are healthy people. But, these are also people who love being outdoors and love helping things live. Quite frankly, it was worth it.

Turtles are reptiles and like all other reptiles they take their heat from the environment around them. They do not produce any heat of their own. This means that they are vulnerable to the conditions around them. In a winter where the temperatures become cold gradually and stay cold the turtles will leave the area for warmer waters. In warm winters, like the one we had here, in S. Texas, last winter and the one we appear to be having now, turtles, especially Green Turtles, with stick around in the warm water and dine on our abundant sea grasses. Then, if we get a hard freeze that lasts for more than a day or two, the turtles become cold stunned. Their body temperature drops, their blood chemistry changes, and they become unable to move. If they are not rescued they will die. They may die because they drown, unable to lift their heads to breathe, or because something else eats them. Last year, in the S. Texas coast region, over 1600 cold stunned turtles were rescued. In Florida, it was over 5000.

Green Turtles are an endangered species. This means that there are restrictions on who can handle them. Volunteers at PINS are placed on the permit that the seashore carries to work with endangered species. If you find a cold stunned turtle in your area call your local Fish and Wildlife Service agency and ask for instructions. They will tell you what you can do. Cold stunned turtles may well appear to be dead but may well be alive. At today’s training there was more than one story about turtles assumed to be dead moving after several hours. Call. Ask someone what to do. You may get the chance to do something good.

But! Don’t act without instructions.

There are two basic reasons for this. 1.) You may hurt the turtle if you don’t handle it properly. 2.) Having possession of an endangered animal, even in the attempt to help, is a federal offense.

Contact number: 1.866.Turtle5 (1.866.87778535) USA.

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