Turtle Rescue!   Leave a comment

Fifty-eight days and hundreds of kilometers later, The Turtle, captured June 2nd, was released back to the swamp wilds of Rondeau Provincial Park, July 31st. Here is his story!

Here you can see the whitish scar-tissue where the tail has healed from a major injury and the vertebrae emerging from inside the tail due to improper healing. Exposed bone can get infected and cause furhter problems to the turtle, which is why it was sent to the KTTC. (Photo: C. Davy)

It had been a regular June day in the wetland, checking hoop traps and notching turtles for our research project. I was accompanied by a volunteer, which proved fortunate. The last and farthest trap to check yielded the most interesting discovery of the summer. We waded out and checked this trap and found that the sardines we used as bait had attracted a big old catfish…. And this catfish had in turn attracted 5 massive snapping turtles. By the time we got to the trap, all except the face of the catfish was gone and five satiated turtles were left. We took two out and processed them. Then we took the three remaining turtles out…and that is when I saw him.  A big snapping turtle, with a very long tail, who had something wrong with the last third of his tail. It was completely white and 3 times the size it should have been – and somehow the bones in his tail had ended up on the outside of the tail!

This looked like a job for the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (www.kawarthaturtle.org). So I picked The Turtle up, put him in the trunk of my little car, and drove back to trailer I was currently calling home.

I found a large plastic container in the trailer that appeared to be big enough and placed The Turtle in the box. After another check of the hoop traps (which yielded nothing), I came back to check on The Turtle. He seemed to be fine and since I had the rest of the night off, I took one last quick peek of The Turtle and left Rondeau. I went to nearby Windsor for of and left the city later than I had intended so it was late upon my return. The field station, the trailer I live in, is in a fenced in yard with no lights. So after I parked my car, I found my flashlight to walk up the porch. The light from my flashlight bounced around as I opened the door and it eventually settled on an overturned box…the box The Turtle was in…had been in. He had escaped.

The Turtle turned out to be an escape artist and was not content to stay in his holding box... (Photo: A. Leifso)

I flipped on all the lights and found The Turtle under the TV table. I took some time to inspect him to make sure he hadn’t injured himself in the great escape. He looked perfectly fine (aside from his tail) and completely at ease. I went around and closed all the inside doors and looked for damage or any trouble he might have gotten himself into…none. Apparently, The Turtle had just wanted to escape from the confines of the box. At this point it was late, and I thought… How much havoc could a snapping turtle wreak if left free? I didn’t have another container. He obviously did not want to be in the container but more importantly he could get out anyways. So I let him be. All the doors were securely closed now. I am a light sleeper and would hear anything out of the ordinary. And I had moved anything and everything that could possibly be dangerous to him so there was no way The Turtle could harm himself. The next morning I awoke early to check on him.  And…he hadn’t moved an inch. I took out a spritz bottle and sprayed The Turtle with a little water.

That day I drove him to Guelph where a KTTC volunteer picked him up and took him to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Peterborough.

Fast forward 58 days. The staff at the KTTC did an incredible job, and The Turtle was ready to go back to the wild. The very tip of The Turtle’s tail had been amputated and all bits of infection removed. A large portion of thick, white flesh still remained and this turned out to be a large amount of harmless, discoloured scar tissue. I picked him up in downtown Toronto with the help of a volunteer and drove him back to Rondeau. We then carried him down to the site where I had originally collected him. While we were walking, The Turtle’s mood shifted from calm to energetic. Whether he became agitated or excited, I’m not sure, but the closer we got to his home the more aggressively he tried to escape the box. Again. When we finally got there, I removed him from the box and walked him down to the water, with him snapping at me all the while. The last I saw of him was a flick of his big white tail splashing the surface as he descended into the water deep.

– Ashley Leifso

Turtle Release! (Photos: J. Paterson)


Posted August 12, 2011 by thinkingturtles in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: