The Wildlife Center of Virginia has admitted a record-breaking number of turtles this year -- to date, more than 225 turtles have been admitted to the hospital due to vehicle collisions, dog attacks, lawn equipment accidents, and other injuries. While many of these reptiles were treated and released this summer, a number of them will be overwintering at the Center until the spring of 2021.
In Virginia, reptile patients in the care of a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian must be released by October 1. Reptiles prepare for brumation [hibernation] in the fall, a dormant period that lasts until the following spring. When Wildlife Center reptile patients have not yet recovered by October 1 each year, they spend their winter in the Center's Reptile Room. This specialized room stays warm and humid throughout the long winter to ensure that turtles and snakes remain "awake" and active instead of hibernating, which is important as they continue to heal from their injuries.
This year, the Center will be overwintering the 21 turtles now in our care – and any additional turtles we admit in the weeks ahead. Most of these turtles require daily treatments, including wound care, medications, bar checks for healing fractures, and regular fluids.
It's likely that many turtles will be fully healed within the next couple of months -- then it's simply waiting for spring! The overwintering reptile population includes:
- 19 Woodland Box Turtles. Box turtles are the most common reptile patient admitted to the Center. Their overall population in Virginia is declining. Road mortality is a significant threat to these turtles, and most of the box turtles overwintering this year are still recovering from shell fractures and other injuries due to vehicle collisions. Other causes of admission included aural abscesses [linked to pesticide exposure] and injuries from lawnmowers and other equipment. One recent turtle admission was brought in because she was accidentally hit with a machete!
- Two Snapping Turtles. These aquatic turtles can grow to be quite large and can weigh up to 35 lbs as adults! Fortunately, these two patients are much smaller. One of the two Snapping Turtle patients weighs 2.90 kg [about six lbs] and is recovering from multiple shell fractures as well as a jaw fracture. The other turtle is much smaller -- only 11 grams! This hatchling Snapping Turtle was admitted with a neck laceration.
The veterinary staff will continue treating and caring for these reptiles for the next seven months; the rehabilitation staff will provide daily turtle meals [greens, fresh veggies, fruits, and earthworms] and will ensure that the turtles are hydrated with multiple soakings each week. Once the turtles are fully healed and warm spring temperatures have arrived – at the end of May – they’ll be released back to the wild.