From the Florida Keys to Sarasota, it’s been a terrible time for Florida’s wildlife. The extreme cold that has most of the nation in the deep freeze has filtered down into the Sunshine State where unusually cold water temperatures are injuring and killing thousands of animals statewide, including at least 2,000 sea turtles and uncounted fish.
When the water gets too cold, the turtles suffer from a condition known as “cold-stunning.” Warm water game fish are also taking a big hit. The fact that fish and turtles are cold-blooded animals means that their internal body temperature changes as the surrounding temperature changes.
The St. Petersburg Times reported an absolute “decimation” of the game fish population with recent record-breaking cold temperatures.
It’s happening across Florida, said Ron Taylor, a Florida Fish and Wildlife scientist. The dead count is likely to multiply as the water continues to warm, allowing decomposing fish to float.Taylor specializes in snook, which he said have taken a huge hit across the Gulf Coast in the recent cold snap. He said most tropical-weather fish can’t survive water below about 45 to 50 degrees.
“Several thousand are reported dead, and hundreds of thousands are in some state of stupor,” Taylor said. When the sun comes up, those hanging on to life would likely be revived, he said.
Turtles rely upon the environment to regulate their body temperatures. When the water gets too cold, their body systems shut down.
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