Our Boxed-in Friends Could Use Our Help

Our Boxed-in Friends Could Use Our Help

Our Boxed-in Friends Could Use Our Help

By the Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)

Eastern Boxed Turtle close-up
Photo courtesy of BoxTurtles.com

When you look around outside, do you wonder just how extreme our actions are on our surroundings? Well, many of those plants and animals do and show it. Just as we are indicator species in the workplace, animals like reptiles and amphibians are good barometers of environmental stress and diminished biodiversity. Take for example the Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina). According to the Piedmont Wildlife Center in Durham, North Carolina, the box turtle’s and other reptile’s habitat is being lost or modified by human activities. The human-reptile interaction could threaten this species. In an attempt to develop programs to enhance biodiversity and landscape management, the Center is studying the Box Turtle in the Leigh Farm Park area in Durham. In addition to tracking turtles in this area to learn about food preferences, range, nesting, and hibernation sites, employees are soliciting citizen scientists to document turtle sighting outside the Park. If participation appeals to you, there may be an opportunity to assist with this project or one of many others in the Piedmont.

Remember coming home from a family vacation and playing the (SHELL GAME), looking for turtles crossing the road. The driver would have to stop the car so that the turtle could be removed from danger without endangering ourselves. The confused turtle would either be placed on the side to which it was headed or dropped off at a more suitable location. If you had a willing parent, the floorboards could become a zoo of turtles. We’d find a safe place to release or keep the turtles for a short time then release them in the woods near our home.

Eastern Boxed turtle on trail
Photo courtesy of Julie Foley
Eastern Boxed Turtle close-up
Photo courtesy of Julie Foley

That GAME is no longer in vogue among wildlife rescuers. It’s discouraged to take a wild turtle and try to make a pet of it. The husbandry, to include daily habitat maintenance and food requirements, makes healthy management very difficult. Also, if the turtle has Salmonella, it can be transferred to humans.

Box turtle in the road with a car in the background
Photo courtesy of Sandy Beck
Girl holding turtle
Photo courtesy of Cotton Boll Conspiracy

Please note: It is ILLEGAL to possess threatened or endangered species of turtles in North Carolina without a permit. Currently this applies only to marine species. Most people don’t realize that it is also ILLEGAL to release a non-native species into the wild. The Red-eared Slider, often sold in the pet trade as a “pet” turtle, is on this list.

However, injured turtles that require medical treatment, can be carefully collected and transported to a rescue organization like the North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Center in Raleigh, NC. These organizations are versed in the medical needs of the reptile patients, will treat them appropriately, and rehab them for return to the wild. It is interesting to note that these patients get a full checkup and are treated for disease and parasites before release. The NCSU Turtle Rescue Team will try to return the animal to its original location if safe to do so. There are adoption procedures if the turtle is unable to survive on its own. Our Michelle Campbell has been involved with turtle rescue for years and can help answer your questions.

It’s best to enjoy the turtles in the wild. If they are in immediate danger or injured then efforts can be taken to lessen the harm.

Pattern on turtle shell
Patterns on a shell
Pattern on turtle shell
Pattern on turtle shell
Photos courtesy of Piedmont Wildlife Center

Get help for an injured turtle

Turtle Rescue Team
Centennial Biomedical Campus
1060 William Moore Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 397 – 9675
8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday-Sunday

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