Nearly 90 sea turtles rescued after a cold snap left them comatose have been returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
Jeff George, curator at Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit turtle rescue group on South Padre Island, said 42 of the endangered juvenile green turtles were released Tuesday and 46 on Wednesday.
The ones that remained were still on antibiotics and will be returned to South Padre waters in the summer, he said. They will be equipped with satellite transmitters to help researchers study migration patterns.
At least 130 of the cold-blooded animals were rescued after being stunned by a rapid temperature drop in the island's Laguna Madre bay in mid-January. Seven turtles were found dead.
With the water temperature in the 50s Fahrenheit (around 10 Celsius), the turtles' systems began shutting down, and they started washing ashore.
Some were trucked 180 miles (290 kilometers) to an aquarium and a fish hatchery near Corpus Christi when the island's tanks were filled.
"We don't usually see greens in the 200-pound range in the Laguna Madre," George said. "It means they're close to sexual maturity and should be migrating back to beaches in southern Mexico."
Green turtles are born in southern Mexico and spend their early years feeding on turtle grass in shallow areas such as the Laguna Madre.
They return to Mexican waters when they are mature and can grow to 500 pounds (225 kilograms).