Earlier today, I noticed a small turtle upside-down on the edge of a highway median adjacent to Osamequin Bird Sanctuary. From its small size, the severity of the injury, and the fact it was totally unresponsive, I assumed it was roadkill. It’s always sad to see an animal as slow growing as a turtle dead, and what made this case particularly tragic is that it’s a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata), now considered an endangered species (van Dijk 2011). I had placed the turtle in a box and noticed that every time I walked by, it seemed to be at a slightly different angle. I wasn’t imagining things, it was overcoming shock and beginning to move again. It initially only moved its back legs – making me fear it was paralyzed – but it soon began to use its front legs as well. By then a severe thunderstorm had broken out and not knowing when I’d be able to drop it off and not having access to veterinary manuals or the Internet, I used liquid bandages on the fracture (visible as the dark streak u) to hopefully stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and hold things in one piece as the turtle was becoming more active. The turtle did eventually make its way to a wildlife rehabilitator a few hours later and I hope all goes well.
What surprised me about this specimen is that, having extensively handled a female of the species, is that it was evidently male (thick tail, concave plastron – I couldn’t see the eyes though). Furthermore, is must have been coming from brackish water (as the median was too steep and high to climb) and wasn’t too far from where I found the baby snapping turtle and was in the same body of water in which I recently observed a terrapin. If the specimen recovers, this has me puzzled as to where it should be released, and considering that the species is doing so poorly, perhaps it would be best used in a breeding program.
van Dijk, P.P. 2011. Clemmys guttata. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 26 June 2012.