Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Southwest Florida is home to a vast array of turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. Species commonly seen include Gopher Tortoises, Florida Softshell Turtles, Peninsula Cooters, Florida Box Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Diamondback Terrapins and more. Turtles can often be found in freshwater environments, terrapins are typically found in more brackish ecosystems, and tortoises are land-dwelling animals.

Florida Box Turtles. SC photo by Kyle Sweet, Sweet Shots

Turtles typically stay in the area they’re familiar with but will migrate to more suitable environments with better access to resources. In the late spring through the summer, it is common to see turtles crossing the road as they search for mates. Gravid females (female turtles carrying eggs) will also cross roadways to find suitable nesting sites. Turtles and tortoises’ shells are their bodies full of nerve endings and blood vessels- their skeletons are directly connected to their shells! Vehicle strikes can lead to serious, irreparable injury or even death for turtles and tortoises.

On July 15, an adult female Diamondback Terrapin (22-3717) was admitted to CROW after she was the victim of a vehicle strike in Bokeelia. The pieces of a terrapin’s shell, called scutes, are made of keratin. The Diamondback Terrapin patient had displaced scutes on the left side of her shell, and the soft tissue was exposed underneath.

Upon further examination, veterinarians found the terrapin was carrying eight eggs. This means the terrapin had most likely been traveling with the purpose of laying her eggs in a safe area. Not only did the car strike put the terrapin’s own life at risk, but also the eight eggs she was carrying. Fortunately, in this case, the terrapin will be okay. She has already started laying her eggs in care. She is currently under supportive care as procedures to repair her shell continue. Unfortunately, not all wild patients admitted to CROW are so lucky.

When driving, it is important to remain alert and keep your eyes open for any wildlife crossing the road. If you do encounter a tortoise or turtle in the process of crossing, you may pick them up and move them to the side of the road in the same direction they were already heading. Oftentimes there are road signs warning of areas where wildlife is frequent, as well as set speed limits for safe travel. If you find an injured turtle or tortoise, please contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation facility or certified wildlife specialist. CROW Wildlife Hotline 239-472-3644 ext. # 222.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (8/8-8/12):
There were 108 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 21 mourning doves, nine common grackles, seven blue jays, 11 eastern gray squirrels, a peninsula cooter, a red-bellied woodpecker, a sandwich tern, a yellow-crowned night heron, a laughing gull, a gopher tortoise, and a virginia opossum. Recent Releases include two river otters, a great horned owl, 12 florida softshell turtles, three loggerhead sea turtles, and a great blue heron. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance. Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year.

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

Leave a Comment

We are interested in articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to the article. We welcome your advice, your criticism and your unique insights into the issues of the day. To be approved for publication, your comments should be civil and avoid name-calling. It may take up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, if it is approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.