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A blanket, a bath and a cozy respite for turtles

January 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS — At least three dozen young sea turtles are getting a little vacation under heat lamps after being rescued from an arctic blast that caused the water temperature in an arm of the Gulf of Mexico to plummet 18 degrees in 48 hours.

The turtles were left comatose by the rapid temperature drop this week in the shallow bay where they feed. Rescuers feared the cold would kill the turtles or make them too sluggish to avoid sharks.

Volunteers, students and others scooped them up, bundled them in blankets and towels, and took them to the privately run Sea Turtle Inc. rescue center and a University of Texas marine laboratory.

The green turtles were scrubbed clean and put under heat lamps until their eyes opened and their flippers twitched -- signs they were reviving and ready to be put into holding tanks.

Green turtles are born off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and spend their early years feeding on turtle grass in shallow bay areas such as South Padre's Laguna Madre.

When they are mature -- 15 to 20 years old and weighing about 500 pounds -- they return to Mexico to breed.

But a cold spell that dropped into the 30s chilled the water into the 50s.

The turtles' systems began shutting down, and they started washing ashore.

Robert Banard, a volunteer who found the first turtles with his wife, said they ranged in size from 3 to 65 pounds and were almost immobile.

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