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The Wide World of Turtles

turtleWe don't receive a huge number of turtles for care here at WSWS, but they certainly do come each year. For the most part, we receive escaped or discarded non-native species that never survive well in our climate. By far the most common species received for care is the red (or yellow) earred slider. These are pond turtles that belong in the Midwest, south, and eastern parts of our nation. They almost always have 'shell rot' and commonly suffer from shell fractures and predatory wounds. Automobiles and domestic dogs are their most frequent predators.

turtleLess common but not rare are the common snapping turtles. These guys are often very large and are in generally good health when found. Unfortunately, they challenge our native turtles and amphibians for habitat and resources. We have received snappers that range from eight to fifteen pounds! Very rarely, we receive species of land turtles such as exotic box turtles and tortoises. We try to get all of these non-natives healthy and transferred to other facilities either locally or in their native regions of the country.

Our local population of turtles has a challenge keeping its populations up and healthy. They are competing, of course, with all of those non-natives for habitat and resources. Washington State has only two native land based turtles. They are both pond turtles which live exclusively in freshwater ponds and streams.

turtleWe have been privileged to treat two rare western pond turtles since we opened our doors in 1999. More commonly we receive our lovely western painted turtles -- we've received three this year. We received the first one in May. We were able to affect a good repair of its shell fractures and wounds and release it back to the wild in August. It was very eager to race into its familiar waters and quickly engaged a large (non-native) bull frog in a 'stare-down.' He finally disappeared into the deep cover of the lilies and aquatic grasses of the lake.

This year we have received more turtles than usual and they have also suffered more serious injuries. RE05-006 was found in a parking lot in Gig Harbor, most likely hit by a car. While its shell fractures were significant, they responded to treatment well. It had shell rot infection, which has finally begun to clear up. We are very pleased with this turtle's recovery progress.

turtleRE05-007 is quite another matter. This one was very seriously mauled by a bulldog. Apparently this dog had a lot of time to chew on the poor turtle before it was rescued. The dog owner was great and got it to us as soon as they could. The Doctors at All Creatures Animal Hospital provided its immediate care and a complicated surgery to put this humpty dumpty back together again. This one's recovery is much slower and its prognosis is unsure. We keep on working and hoping. It has another surgery or two ahead of it to achieve a full recovery. RE05-007 will be with us for some time to come.

But RE05-007 is not a quitter! He has gained weight nearly every day since his arrival and is very active and aggressive. These two turtles are living together. RE05-006 quickly discovered its submissive place in their pecking order. We shall continue to hope for the best.



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