My Hopes and Heartbreak When Rescuing an Injured Turtle

Driving home yesterday I saw a snapping turtle on the other side of the road who had been hit by a car. It was a quiet road, so I was able to back up and take a closer look — at first glance it definitely looked like it had been killed. But, from some earlier research I knew that just because a turtle’s shell has been broken doesn’t mean that they’re dead. So, I got out of my car to investigate a bit. (I should point out that this was a very quiet country road — be super careful if you’re ever doing this in a busy area). Anyhow, I will admit I was surprised when the turtle moved — and it also put me into a bit of a panic! What do I do? How can I help? I knew the turtle was in rough shape (poor thing), but I also knew that leaving it there on the road would most likely result in certain death. So, I decided to take the turtle to someone who could try and help it — a wildlife rehabilitator. (If you’re not familiar with the term, these are people who are certified to care for and rehabilitate wild animals. This isn’t a paying gig or a chance to keep cute wild animals as pets. These are dedicated people who nurse wildlife back to health with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. I could go on and on about how wonderful I think they are, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Not having a box in my car meant that I had to get a bit creative — you can see the picture below, which is almost embarrassing to post as it looks a bit bizarre. I had taken a small blanket and wrapped it over the turtle’s back and used it to pick her up. (Even though she looked pretty out of it, she still was a snapper after all, so I didn’t want to get nipped.) I then tucked her into a totebag (please don’t judge — it was the best I had!) and put her on the backseat of my car. I didn’t want to leave her out because I knew I would be distracted, plus she was bleeding a bit. So, wrapping her up (very gently) seemed like the best option. A very nice lady stopped and helped me to get her in the bag.

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Then we were off. I called my boyfriend and my Mom and set them to work on Google to find the best place to bring the turtle while I drove towards the highway. They both did great communicating with groups on Facebook and finding phone numbers. One number was for The Turtle’s Back — a woman who specializes in native turtle rehabilitation. Thankfully, she was home when I called and I got her address to deliver the turtle. It was about a 25 minute drive, so we headed out right away. My adrenaline was going at that point (I’m driving with an injured snapping turtle in a totebag on my backseat — what is happening here?) so I tried to soothe both of us with some classical music. Not sure if it helped the poor turtle, but it helped me a bit. I found what I thought was the right house, but couldn’t find a number, so I knocked on the door and was so grateful¬†when they asked “You’re here with the turtle?. (I wonder how often their neighbors get accidental deliveries!)

I met Pam in her driveway and she took a look at our patient. She was so incredibly kind and you could tell that she really knew her stuff. Unfortunately, the turtle (who was suspected to be a girl) was hit right behind her neck which was kind of like a spinal cord injury for a person. Pam warned me that it was a rough injury and that we would have to wait and see. Turtles can be very resilient, but the first 72 hours are the highest risk. I stood there soaking up the information and restraining myself from wanting to cuddle the poor turtle to comfort her (which would obviously just make things worse, duh, but #empathy…). I promised to send along my contact info and where I found the turtle as Pam needed that info for her records. I also took these two quick pictures to share with those who had helped me rescue her, but I’ll warn you that they are pretty sad, so scroll quickly if you don’t want to see…

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Unfortunately, when I reached out this morning to see how my little rescue turtle was doing, I heard back that she didn’t make it through the night. I’ll be honest with you, I shed a few tears over the news as it was so sad to think of her dying just because she was trying to get to her pond. But, I also knew that with the efforts of our small team, we at least kept her from getting hit again, causing even more pain, or cooking all day long on the road if she couldn’t get to shade.

All day today I went back and forth about whether or not to share this story. It’s not something with a happy ending. Nor am I looking for credit for such a small effort. I also didn’t want to exploit her suffering just for content for a blog post. In the end, the reason I am writing this is because I thought maybe other people might think twice when they drive by an injured turtle and now know that just because their shell is broken doesn’t mean that they’ve already passed. With the right help the turtle might survive and that’s the story I hope you get to write one day.

Extra Turtle Tips: If you’re lucky enough to see a turtle crossing the road who isn’t injured, help them along to the side of the street **in the direction they were already going**. I also recommend looking up a turtle rehabilitator and getting their contact info into your phone so you’re not struggling like I was. Oh! And put a cardboard box and gloves in your car — so much better than a blanket and totebag!


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