Wildlife Officials to “Launch” Sea Turtles after Ripple Effect from Recent Cold

On Friday, Feb. 26 at Canaveral National Seashore wildlife officials will launch rehabilitated sea turtles into the ocean.

The turtles being released suffered from cold-stunning in the northeast, just like the thousands of sea turtles that washed up on Texas beaches after the recent cold snap. With these turtles returned to health, rehabilitation facilities have space that could be used to help treat other sea turtles, including the Texas cold-stuns.

Turtles Fly Too’s “Turtle Fliers” are transporting three dozen rehabilitated sea turtles, mostly endangered Kemp’s ridley species, from Cape Cod, Mass., and New York to the warmer waters of the Space Coast for release. Kennedy Space Center is working with several federal, state, and charitable organizations for this unique rescue.

Turtles Fly Too is coordinating the rescue flight. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies call on organizations like Turtles Fly Too to provide air transportation when endangered species are in need of transport to distant facilities for treatment and rehabilitation. General aviation pilots donate their expertise, aircraft, fuel, and labor to provide air transportation to shorten travel time and reduce stress on these endangered species.

Space Florida is supporting the mission by allowing use of the Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) to streamline the transportation and release of the turtles at Canaveral National Seashore.

Canaveral National Seashore and Kennedy Space Center biologists are supporting the release of rehabilitated sea turtles rescued in New England after they were cold-stunned (hypothermic) as a result of dropping sea temperatures before they could return south for the winter. Releasing them in the water off Canaveral National Seashore puts them back in the habitat where they should be this time of year, giving them a better chance for survival.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided authorization for the transport of these protected species into the state and subsequent release into the wild through their permittees.