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Cold Turtles: Rescued and Headed Back to the Gulf

More than 800 sea turtles that had been stunned by the state's cold snap are getting their release back into the wild starting today, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department says.

In the past the animals were kept for weeks, but TPWD says a new philosophy says to throw 'em back as soon as you can. Plus, there's too damn many of them.

"Experts in Florida who've had similar recent experiences with cold-stunned turtles advised returning them to the water as soon as possible," TPWD said. "Second, the sheer numbers of rescued turtles have overwhelmed available facilities, so that many are on floors or wrapped in blankets, and experts say it's better for them to return to water."

The recent cold snap caused the most turtle-stunning since the national Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network was formed in 1980, said Donna Shaver, the group's Texas coordinator.

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"There is no doubt we saved these turtles' lives; they would have perished in the cold if left on the bays and beaches," she said.

The details, from TPWD:

Between 3-4 p.m. today, the first turtle release will take place on the beach at Isla Blanca County Park at the southern most tip of South Padre Island. This release will include more active and healthy sea turtles held at local facilities. As of this morning, more than 700 turtles were being held in far South Texas, including about 300 at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, about 125 at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, about 250 at the University of Texas-Pan American coastal studies lab, and about 50 at the facility of nonprofit Sea Turtle, Inc.

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