Hit-by-car Western Pond Turtle Returns to the Wild

Western Pond Turtle. Photo by Melanie Piazza

This turtle’s rescuer, Deb, saw him crossing the street as she drove to work one morning in May.

Knowing that a turtle on a busy road was in danger, Deb pulled over, but just as she was getting out of her car, another vehicle went zooming past. She watched in horror as the turtle rolled and spun out from under that car’s tires.

Fortunately Deb knew about WildCare and, making the decision to be late to work that day, she brought this Western Pond Turtle to our Wildlife Hospital.

The turtle’s carapace was cracked, broken and bleeding. Photo by Melanie Piazza

When the turtle arrived at WildCare, Medical Staff found that the carapace had sustained multiple fractures.

A turtle’s shell has three distinctive parts: the carapace (top), the plastron (bottom), and the bridge (sides). The entire shell is composed of approximately 50 fused bones including the ribs and the spine. Unlike what we may have seen in cartoons, a turtle and his shell are all one piece– he can’t take his shell on and off!

Touch the back of your fingernail to get a sense of what a turtle feels through his shell, and to understand how painful it is for a turtle (or a tortoise!) to have a cracked shell.

A turtle with a broken shell is at great risk. Especially for an aquatic animal like a pond turtle, a cracked shell is very prone to infection, as the crack gives bacteria direct access to his blood and internal organs.

Fortunately, each affected piece was able to be placed back into position and stabilized with clasps, wire, and dental acrylic. Over the next two months the turtle received extensive wound care, antibiotics, and pain medication.

Click on each of the photos below to see how the turtle’s shell healed over the course of two months in care. Then enjoy his release video at the bottom!

We’re so happy this wonderful Western Pond Turtle was able to return to his home pond! Thank you to his brave rescuer, Deb!

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