Today, I drove past a turtle upside down in the middle of the lane on Huntsville Road, heading out of town. I quickly pulled over and ran back to help it out of the road and back on its feet. As I picked it up, I noticed that its anterior plastron (the front piece of this bottom shell) was badly cracked. The wound looked fresh and at first I didn't even know if the poor creature was alive. However, I didn't think its shell would heal without a little first aid. So I took the turtle home and let it rest in our empty laundry basket.
I am not a fan of taking wild animals out of their natural environment or interrupting nature's way of doing things. But as I see it, this turtle was injured due to human disturbances. It was clipped by a car, not exactly a natural occurrence. So I feel like my interference is understandable in this instance.
After a short while, I peeked back in on the turtle to find that it's head and legs were out of its shell. Its bright orange and red coloration told me that this was a male box turtle. By counting the rings on its shell, I could tell he was about nine years old. He didn't look happy but he did seem healthy and without major internal injuries. I examined his wound again to find that his plastron was almost completely severed in half and would not heal properly because the peices no longer matched up. I wasn't sure how to get it back in place or how to keep it in place, so I called around.
I made dozens of calls or so to human societies, animal hospitals, and animal rescue places around northwest Arkansas. Most everyone was completely disinterested in the well being of this reptile. Many places only deal with mammals and birds. Cute furry mammals and beautiful birds get recognition, but our fur-less, flightless friends are often overlooked and forgotten. I guess that is why I write about insects, amphibians, and reptiles more than anything else. I like to root for the little guys!
Finally, an animal hospital gave me an old lady's cell phone number. I explained the turtle's condition and the lady asked some questions. "Can you see 'turtle" through the crack?" she asked. "No," I answered. "Good then we are not talking about injured 'turtle body' but instead damaged turtle shell, right? In that case, with a little help, the turtle should be just fine!" She instructed me to clean the wound carefully and try to adjust the pieces so they could heal properly. Then she told me how to make a bridge-like band-aid using super glue and a thin but sturdy piece of plastic. I followed her instructions and, with help from my wonderful partner, John, made it happen!
At first John was a little annoyed. He laughed at my concern and said I should just let the turtle go to live or die in nature. Let nature take its course. I told him I would let it go in a day, after I helped it out a little. Once he could tell I was not going to give up, he jumped in and helped. In fact, being the carpenter and handy-man, he couldn't help but jump in and take over the project. When he puts his mind to it, my man can fix anything, even a turtle!
|The broken pieces |
don't match up
|Now the break will heal|
|It may look messy, |
but I think it will work!
|John can fix anything!|
I am confident that this turtle will be just fine. I will release it back into the wild tomorrow morning so it can go back to the great turtle migration and find a mate!