Arrowhead: Common Turtle Injuries

Two Turtle Rescue Stories

Arrowhead Reptile Rescue Expert discusses care for common turtle injuries

Damien N. Oxier is a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator and Director of Arrowhead Reptile Rescue located in the Greater Cincinnati area. Arrowhead is one of the rescues supported by the  Zen Habitats Reptile Relief program.

Zen Habitats: Does Arrowhead have an exotics vet and/or technician affiliated with the rescue?

Damien: Currently we have four veterinarians and six veterinary technicians.

Zen Habitats: Are turtles the most common reptiles to come to your rescue?

Damien: Yes, by far we see more turtles than snakes and lizards.

Zen Habitats: Let’s first talk about the Snapping Turtle!

Zen Habitats: What was the snapping turtle’s injury?

Damien: The snapping turtle was found with string hanging out of its mouth. It had swallowed a fishhook.

Zen Habitats: When doing intake did you know there was a hook? How was the turtle evaluated? 

Damien: The fishhook was found upon visual inspection with an examination light.

Zen Habitats: How emergent is this kind of situation?

Damien: This was not an emergency. The hook had been lodged in its mouth for quite some time.

Zen Habitats: What was the treatment?

Damien: Treatment for this kind of injury is straightforward. We were able to remove the hook and give the turtle antibiotic therapy.

Zen Habitats: Is this a common injury?

Damien:  Yes, it is!

Zen Habitats: How long was the turtle in your care?

Damien: Recovery was only a few weeks, but the turtle came in October and needed to be overwintered and released in spring, when temperatures are favorable.

Zen Habitats: Are there animals under your care that are rehomed?

Damien: Not the injured wildlife. They are rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Exotic pets are rehomed.

Zen Habitats: There were two Painted Turtles with the same injury that came to Arrowhead around the same time, let’s talk about them!

Within a week, two Painted Turtles were brought to Arrowhead Reptile Rescue with the same injury. They were run over by cars and sustained nearly identical breaks in their shells. 

Zen Habitats: Were the two turtles brought in around the same time?

Damien: They were brought in the same week, only a few days apart.

Zen Habitats: What happened to them?

Damien: They were both run over by cars and found injured in road with severe shell fractures.

Zen Habitats: Is it common for a turtle to survive being hit by a car?

Damien: It is very common and most survive.

Zen Habitats: How emergent is this type of injury?

Damien: It is somewhat of an emergency.

Zen Habitats: What was the treatment?

Damien: For both, the fractures were stabilized to heal and wound care was administered to prevent infection. Hydrotherapy also was used.

Zen Habitats: How long were the turtles been in your care?

Damien: They were with us for three weeks.

Zen Habitats: How did you determine when the turtles were ready to be released?

Damien: They were ready for release once their shells healed enough. The pieces of the shells were no longer moveable and there were no openings for debris and bacteria to enter the body cavity.

Zen Habitats: Do you have advice for someone who finds an injured turtle?

Damien: The first thing they should do is contact the nearest rescue that takes in reptiles!