This week, the Wildlife Center is celebrating World Turtle Day – which takes place on May 23. This day, sponsored by the American Tortoise Rescue, is designed to bring attention to, and increase knowledge and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and to encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.
So how is the Wildlife Center celebrating?
For starters, we're getting ready to say goodbye to many turtle patients! At this time each year, we're getting ready to release a variety of turtles who have healed from their injuries and are ready to get back home in the wild. These turtle patients are ones that overwintered at the Center as they continued to heal from injuries sustained last fall. At this point, 15 Woodland Box Turtles are preparing to return to the wild, along with seven Eastern Painted Turtles and a Yellow-bellied Slider. Many of these animals are now living outside, getting exercise and exposure to outdoor temperatures before they return to the wild in the next couple of weeks.
At the same time, we're starting to admit new turtle patients; it's the time of year when many are emerging from hibernation. Dozens of turtles are admitted to the Center each year when they come into conflict with vehicles, lawnmowers, or dogs. The Center is currently caring for a grand total of 26 turtles.
In addition to acknowledging our wild turtle patients, we also celebrate Wilson, Sheldon, and Emma — the Wildlife Center’s education turtles and tortoise. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person programs have been suspended for the time being, so the education turtle gang has the day "off" but will be relaxing in their enclosures in the Center's library.
Despite our lack of travel, we're still offering a variety of live, online programs -- join us at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday, May 22 for a Facebook LIVE World Turtle Day event!
Need help in figuring out how you should celebrate World Turtle Day?
- Make a donation to the Wildlife Center in honor of the turtles ... and/or sponsor the Critter Cam in their honor!
- Watch Episode Three of Untamed, Season One, the Center's television series.
- Adopt Wilson, Sheldon, or Emma through the Center’s Caring for Critters sponsorship program. Celebrate with them year-round!
- Take "Wilson's Turtle Promise" -- and don’t ever keep a wild turtle as a pet. If you truly desire a pet reptile and can make all of the commitments necessary to keeping a healthy, happy herp, please look into adopting. Captive-bred reptiles or rescued turtles are often available for adoption through reputable reptile rescue groups.
- Do NOT relocate a turtle to a “better place”. Turtles have small home territories and should be left where they are found. Their survivability depends on it!
- Assist turtles crossing a road by carrying them across in the direction they’re headed. Many turtles crossing roads are egg-laden females looking for appropriate nesting sites.
- Learn more about the turtles in your area. The Virginia Herpetological Society has great information on Virginia’s wild turtles.
- Take special care when dealing with a Snapping Turtle. These turtles may be as much as 19 inches long, weigh up to 35 pounds, have powerful jaws, and a long neck. To handle a large Snapping Turtle safely, avoid the front half of the turtle’s body. While wearing gloves, place one hand on the base of the turtle’s tail – to help stabilize and secure the turtle – and slide the other hand halfway under the turtle’s shell.
- Watch out for turtles and other wildlife when mowing lawns and doing other yard work.
- Help monitor the declining Woodland Box Turtle population in Virginia by filling out this Box Turtle Reporting form whenever you encounter one!
- If you find an injured turtle, put it in a box and contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Make sure to record details of the rescue location so that the turtle can be returned there once it has healed.
- Tune in to your local "oldies" radio station ... and request songs by "The Turtles." Share these turtle tips with the station!
- Keep domestic animals indoors or on leashes. Free-roaming dogs and cats injure and kill millions of wild animals each year.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling a turtle.
- Share these turtle tips and photos – and spread the word!
We hope you have a happy World Turtle Day!