PATIENT: Bog Turtle, #12-0205
LOCATION OF RESCUE: Floyd County, VA
CAUSE OF ADMISSION: Dog attack
ADMISSION DATE: March 23, 2012
OUTCOME: Released April 16, 2012
On March 22, a homeowner in Floyd County, Virginia, retrieved an injured turtle from his dog. Suspecting the turtle to be a Bog Turtle -- a federally threatened and state endangered turtle -- the rescuer emailed photos to the Virginia Herpetological Society for confirmation. VHS contacted the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the following morning, the rescuer took the turtle to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. The turtle was stabilized and was handed off to Wildlife Center veterinarians – Dr. Adam and Dr. Dave were both presenting lectures at Virginia Tech on March 23. The two veterinarians brought the Bog Turtle back to the Wildlife Center that same afternoon.
The Bog Turtle – a male – had some dog-chew wounds and abrasions to the back portion of its carapace [upper shell]. The Center’s veterinary team flushed the wounds and started the turtle on a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medications. Radiographs were taken on March 24; no internal damage was found. The Wildlife Center is working with the state herpetologist to quickly treat the endangered Bog Turtle so that the turtle may be released as quickly as possible back in its home territory. At this point, the turtle should only need to finish its course of antibiotics over the next couple of weeks, while the veterinary team manages the shell wounds. A course of laser therapy has also been started.
Bog Turtles are the smallest freshwater turtle in Virginia; adults typically average about 4 inches in length. Adults have dark colored shells which are typically rough at first, though often become smooth over the years from so much burrowing. Bog Turtles have a noticeable orange or yellow blotch behind each eye. Bog Turtles are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of plants, fruits, tadpoles, crayfish, insects, slugs, snails, and earthworms. In Virginia, Bog Turtles are only found in four counties in the southwestern part of the state. They typically emerge from hibernation in April and mate in late April – which is why the state herpetologist would like to ensure we are able to release the turtle in time for breeding season. According to the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, Bog Turtles are a Tier I species, meaning that they are of critical conservation need. Species in this tier “are at critically low levels, facing immediate threat(s), or occur within an extremely limited range.”
March 30 update
Dr. Adam reports that the Bog Turtle remains bright and alert, and the turtle's wounds are looking better. Antibiotics continue, as well as laser therapy on both the plastrom [lower shell] and carapace [upper shell]. Laser therapy:
April 9 update
Dr. Adam reports that the Bog Turtle's carapace injuries are clean, dry, and healing. On April 5, the Bog Turtle was cleared for regularly soaking -- meaning that the turtle is placed in a shallow tub of water several times a week. The turtle's course of antibiotics will end this week, and arrangements are being made to return the turtle to the state herpetologist for release.
April 12 update
The Bog Turtle continues to heal well -- and with Bog Turtle breeding season upon us, the staff is arranging to soon release the turtle. Veterinary externship student Connie will be finishing her externship at the Wildlife Center this weekend and is headed back to Virginia Tech on Sunday, April 15. Connie will take the turtle with her and will meet up with a DGIF biologist who will release the Bog Turtle back in its original habitat on Monday.
April 17 update
DGIF biologist report that the Bog Turtle release went well on April 16 -- the turtle was returned to its original location in Floyd County. The family who rescued the Bog Turtle were in attendance for the release -- they were very interested in protecting the wetland where the Bog Turtle lives and were thrilled to have such a unique species on their property. Biologists will be going back to the homeowner's property in May for additional turtle surveying.