How to Care For a Wild Turtle Injured On The Road

It’s the time of year when turtles are starting to be seen out and about, even along the road. They frequently cross busy roads, but they do not have a reputation for doing it at even a reasonable speed, which puts them in harms way. This results in many turtles being injured or killed. And what’s worse, most people don’t bother to ever stop and help them! Some people just do not care. Others would help but they are not sure how to care for a wild turtle injured on the road.

With this in mind, I thought I would share a story about a turtle I stopped to help a couple of years ago.  I stopped to get him off the road so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. I was a little too late. As I picked him up I noticed his cracked shell then a small puddle of blood underneath him. Poor thing.

I just happened to have a cat carrier in the trunk (imagine that), so I worked as fast as lightning to get him into the carrier and in the car.  It was at that moment that I realized how few people really care about turtles. Obviously, someone hit this turtle with their car. The wheel didn’t go directly over the turtle but caught it on the side causing the damage.  Whoever that was did not bother to stop and help the turtle in any way. And no one driving along on that particular road had bothered to stop and help the turtle either. Everyone that passed by while I was there seemed to be in a huge hurry.

To me, it’s sad that everyone is just too busy to help  a turtle out of harm’s way whether injured or not. Everyone, including me, is in a big hurry to get where they are going. But if there’s an animal hurt, hungry, or in any kind of danger, I can’t overlook it.

I had the turtle overnight, but the next day, a veterinarian treated him. He bandaged him, cauterized the wound, gave me antibiotics and Metacam (a pain medicine) and helped me finally get in touch with a rehabber.  I’m glad for that because I started trying to give him the medicines shortly after the vet visit, and that did not work out very well for me. I tried to follow the vet’s instructions but, like most animals, the turtle refused to open his mouth for the medicine.

This turtle sports his doggy bone bandage he got at the vet.

A few hours later, I relinquished my turtle to a rehabber. I felt relieved knowing that he was in better hands than he would have been with me. This was a real learning experience for me. When I picked up that turtle along the road, it never occurred to me that he would get antibiotics and pain medication!

For those of you who don’t know, there is help for injured turtles. If you see one on the road, I hope that you will be kind enough to pick it up and take it home. I even keep a box in my car at all times for this particular reason. Fortunately, you should not have to keep any turtle you find (unless you want to) because there are people who are experienced at caring for injured turtles. So if you find a turtle that is injured, simply follow these steps when you get it home:

1. Put the turtle in a safe place outside or in a garage or ventilated building as long as the garage or building is not air-conditioned. Being kept indoors in an air conditioned area can make the turtle sick. Keep it in a box, a pet carrier, or a plastic container without the lid. Keep it where there is no danger of flies, bees, ants, or other insects bothering it.

2. Begin searching for a turtle rehab or rescue online. If you are unable to locate one within a reasonable distance from you, call a veterinarian and see what you are advised to do. Be aware that most vets do not treat wildlife. You may have to call several to find one that will. If the vet will not treat the turtle, he or she could give you contact information for a rehabber. If all else fails, feel free to contact me via the contact page, and I will try to help you locate someone.

3. Read about the turtle – You can find instructions for feeding the turtle and giving it water, but you should only try to feed the turtle if you think you may have it for a few days. I tried to give my turtle water in a shallow pan, but he was not interested.

4. Try to leave the turtle alone to reduce stress.

5. Hopefully, deliver the turtle to a rehabber or to a turtle rescue group. Once the turtle is well, you may want to check with the rehabber about returning it to its original location. He or she should be able to tell you if that is in the turtle’s best interest.

If you have ever rescued a turtle or if you have questions or comments about turtles or turtle rescue, please tell me in the comments section below!

For the Love of Animals,






photo credit: Todd W Pierson Speed bump via photopin (license)




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