Volunteers from the community and the Florida Coastal Conservancy return rehabilitated turtles to warmer waters. (Photo: Florida Coastal Conservancy)
The recent cold spell in Florida didn't just surprise humans who aren't used to those temperatures; it put sea turtles at risk, too.
As water temperatures dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the first week of January, over 1,200 turtles were "cold stunned" near many beaches on Florida's coast.
The "stunned" sea turtles were losing the ability to swim or to raise their heads above the water to breathe. Luckily, several conservation groups and dozens of volunteers chipped in to save lives.
The Florida Coastal Conservancy worked alongside local conservation groups, the U.S. Geological Survey and dozens of people just looking to help to retrieve the turtles and take them to a safe place for rehabilitation.
Volunteers and staff members in St. Joseph Bay walked the beach in frigid weather to find the turtles, helped wash transport bins, drove over an hour to deliver the turtles to rehab and brought any food and supplies needed to get the job done.
Hundred of turtles were taken to Gulf World Marine Institute where they could warm up and be treated for any negative effects cold water.
And this week, many of the turtles from St. Joseph Bay were able to go back home healthy and happy. More generous citizens volunteered to help transport the turtles to the beach, where they were taken to deeper and warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our turtles are going home healthy and happy thanks to this amazing community of heroes," the Florida Coastal Conservancy posted on Facebook.
The number of turtles affected by the cold spell has continued to rise, but more and more organizations and volunteers in Florida have stepped up, according to a report from USA Today.