Monday, August 31, 2015

Rescuing an Eastern Box Turtle

There is a depression in the ground I have covered with tarp to keep water out until I can have some rocks and stones put in to fill it. An Eastern Box Turtle found his way into the depression, but he couldn't get out. Instead he scrabbled at the tarp trying to get a foothold but ended up shredding the plastic and getting the strands wrapped around his legs and pulled into his shell. He literally became attached to the tarp at each leg and all around his shell.

A crazy whim drew me to the tarp this week which sits well out of view of my house hidden in some bushes and wild cane. I decided to trim back the tarp and see if the cane might stabilize the depression. As I pulled some of the tarp away, up came the turtle, securely attached to the tarp.

I couldn't lift him off but had to go get scissors to cut a circle around his shell so I could begin the task of trying to get him free. It soon became clear there were too many strands of shredded tarp pulled around his legs and shell. I was able to get his front two legs free but the back legs were tightly wrapped.

I called Walden Puddle, a local wildlife rescue organization, but they were closed for the day, so I quickly began to Google to try to figure out what the little turtle might need after being attached to tarp for who knows how long. I put him in a box in a quiet corner, put some water in a shallow dish and put lettuce, tomato and a little wet dog food in for him to eat. He didn't move -- his legs were bound in the back, but his front legs worked. He just wasn't moving, so I put him in aother shallow container of water for a soak. That revived him!

He still didn't eat, but he began to pull himself around the box and took care of his other bodily functions. The next morning when I checked on him, he had worked one hind leg almost free with loose strands wrapped around it. I carefully cut the shreds away from that leg and put him outside in partial sun to bask if he wanted or hang out in the shade. He became even more active.

Soon it was time to take him to Walden Puddle where they freed the last leg, determined he had no lacerations or injuries, and sent him home with me. I returned him to his habitat in my back yard, and he seemed quite content to be back.

The Eastern box turtle is considered a vulnerable species because they tend to get run over by cars and farm machinery and their habitat is often threatened by development.

Lesson learned: tarp can be a deadly trap for small critters.

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