Brevard U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Patrols for Cold-Shocked Green and Loggerhead Turtles In Lagoon

By  //  January 16, 2018

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Turtles go into shock and can quickly die if water temperatures fall below 50 degrees

Merritt Island, Florida Auxiliary Coxswains Greg Hendricks, right, and Jack Miller depart on cold weather patrol. Both are wearing Coast Guard immersion suites, required for operations in waters below 60 degrees. Patrol tasks included the Coast Guard’s living marine resources mission, which helps protect endangered species. (Gayle Hendricks image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – During the recent cold snaps, unusually cold temperatures were especially dangerous to local wildlife. As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles are especially vulnerable as their body temperature matches the surrounding water.

They go into shock and can quickly die if water temperatures fall below 50 degrees.  The Green and Loggerhead Turtles are common in the Indian River Lagoon, especially juveniles.  These smaller, younger, turtles are even more likely to die in cold water. 

As air temperatures in Brevard County dipped into the upper 30s during the early morning hours of January 5, water temperatures of 51 degrees were observed in the Banana River. 

By midday, Sykes Creek Barge Canal water temperatures were observed as low as 48 degrees.  These waters were chilled to dangerous levels, especially for sea turtles.

The morning of January 5  also saw the local Coast Guard Auxiliary on patrol.  With coxswains Jack Miller and Greg Hendricks onboard Patrol Boat EcoTours, this patrol team was uniquely qualified to look for distressed marine animals.

Hendricks is an experienced member of the Sea Turtle Standing Team, operated jointly by the Florida Wildlife Commission and Sea Turtle Preservation Society.

Florida Fish & Wildlife staff, partners and permitted volunteers rescue cold-stunned sea turtles. If you see injured or distressed wildlife, such as sea turtles, report them to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at ‪888-404-FWCC‬ (3922).

VIDEO: Florida Fish & Wildlife Rescue Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles, Manatees During Cold WeatherRelated Story:
VIDEO: Florida Fish & Wildlife Rescue Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles, Manatees During Cold Weather

As a qualified STST member, he is permitted to handle sea turtles in distress. This is important because all sea turtles are protected by the Federal Government’s Endangered Species Act. Greg is also a Florida licensed Master Ecologist.

The patrol team was also on the lookout for stressed manatees and porpoises.  Fortunately, no stressed animals were encountered during the morning patrol. 

While on cold-weather patrol other mission objectives included: looking for pollution; scouting navigable waters, bridges, and channel markers to spot problems; assisting encountered distressed boaters; and, providing a ready response platform for search & rescue.   

Brevard County’s three Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas together operate 12 patrol boats and one aircraft. Last year, they logged 24,000 hours of support to Team Coast Guard, mostly within the county.

In 2018, the Auxiliary plans to increase the number of its available patrol platforms on the IRL.  It is actively recruiting volunteers to achieve this goal.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit www.cgaux.org

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