PANAMA CITY BEACH — More than 80 sea turtles described as "cold" and "stunned" are currently in rehabilitation at Gulf World Marine Institute due to the cold snap in the area, according to a press release from Gulf World.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Geological Survey and Gulf World Marine Institute are collaborating in the search, rescue, transport and rehabilitation of the sea turtles.
According to the release, sea turtles can become "shocked" by frigid temperatures when the waters get below 50 degrees in shallow bays and estuaries. Rescue groups are currently searching in St. Joe Bay and surrounding areas for cold, stunned sea turtles and are bringing them to Gulf World for the proper care.
"Over the next several days we expect to see additional patients enter rehab. We are estimating around 300 sea turtles to be rescued but that could change with varying temperatures," said Secret Holmes-Douglas, Director of Gulf World Marine Institute. "The animals are being examined by veterinary staff and placed in warmer water. We expect the majority to be tagged and released as early as next week in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a team effort and we appreciate everyone involved for working together to save these sea turtles."
On Okaloosa Island, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge said it has received several pelicans who have been hanging around the Gulfarium and local piers chasing people and fish.
"The fish go out to deeper water (when it’s this cold) so the younger pelicans get hungry, so they start hanging around the piers," ECWR marine mammal stranding coordinator Shelby Proie said Wednesday. "They love to go out to the Gulfarium and follow around the trainers."
Proie added they are monitoring local waterways and are anticipating animals being brought in due to the cold snap, but have not yet received any turtles.
"We luck out a little bit because we have so many bayous and stuff," Proie said.
Gulf World is accepting donations of towels, blankets, sheets and kiddie pools. The items can be dropped off at the Gulf World gift shop at 15412 Front Beach Rd. Panama City Beach, FL 32413.