Thursday, June 20, 2013

Take a Picture, Not a Turtle

Mr. Bee, Emma Bee and I were out for a late afternoon walk and to our amazement, we stumble upon a humongous turtle crossing the road in a residential area near our house!  Now, we do live just a few short blocks from the Wapsipinicon River and at first we considered taking him down to the river bank but Ive never seen this kind of turtle in the wild before.   Thanks to my wildlife education at Iowa State University, even though I'm not a turtle expert, I do know that there are a number of threatened and endangered species of turtles in the state of Iowa.  I wasn't comfortable taking him to such an active area if he happened to be one of those species that falls under a threatened or endangered status.  

So I decided to go home first and take a look at Iowa Herp Net.  Its a great resource for Herpetology in the state of Iowa.  It gives you information and status of all of the frogs, toads, turtles, salamanders, lizards and snakes found in the state of Iowa.   And of course, my suspicion was confirmed.  Mr. Turtle happened to be a Blandings Turtle, one of Iowa's threatened species.  Now I was really glad we hadn't just left him at the banks of the Wapsi.  For one thing, hes not even a river turtle.  He prefers a more marsh-like habitat. 

But at that point, I was in a bit of a panic because I did not want a threatened turtle in my possession any longer than he has to be as I don't want to stress him. But the office for Buchanan County Conservation was closed for the day and I left a message for Blackhawk County Wildlife Rehab and hadn't gotten a call back.  But thankfully after some online searching, I came to Iowa State University's Extension website that featured a page listing names, locations and contact information for all of the rehabiliators in the state.  And we were in luck!  There was a rehabilitator just sound of town. 

We gave her a call and she was very happy that we called her and were able to rescue this big guy from getting run over by a car or picked up by someone who might think it would be fun to have a new pet turtle.  The turtle seemed to be very healthy, hard shell, alert and active, no visible external injuries and he was a good 9 inches in length from one end of his shell to the other.  We dropped him off with her, and she will be relocating him to a nice secluded marshy area with a stream tomorrow morning.  There are very few people that go to this area as it is very remote and difficult to get to.  That's why she likes to take wildlife out there.  There are very few human disturbances there which will be great for our new turtle friend.

Its so unfortunate when wild animals are taken from the wild and kept as pets.  I'm not talking about the stray cat outside the pizza shop begging for scraps.  You can take him home, that's fine (cuz I did that already).  I'm talking about turtles, frogs, snakes, baby rabbits and such.  Its so common for people to think that those animals will do well in captivity.  But fact is, they don't.  They rarely survive.   We simply cant take care of them the way nature can and wildlife rehabilitators are trained to nurse sick and injured wildlife back to good health so they can be released back into their wild habitat.  Plus, you never know if that turtle you found could be threatened or endangered.  

So if you ever come across a sick, injured  or displaced wild animal, please locate a local wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible so an expert can help it! 

And if you feel the need to take something home,
take a picture, not a turtle!

So after working with Tracy, our amazing local wildlife rehabilitator, we managed to get a few expert opinions from the folks at the DNR and from HerpNet.  From our experts we found that on some occasions, the Blandings turtles may use rivers as travel so there is a possibility that he may have traveled downriver to where we found him.  Another suspicion that we all felt could have been a possibility, was that the turtle was captured from its home by someone who intended on making it a pet.  They changed their mind, and took him to the river to release him rather than back to where he was found.  That could explain why we found him so far from the river and moving even further away from it.  Either way our expert at HerpNet suggested releasing him at the Wapsipinicon River Access County Park because of the marsh there and the fact that the marshes connect to the river in case the turtle chooses to use the river for travel.

Were still very glad that he was not crushed my an automobile in the road where we found him and very glad we may have prevented him from becoming someones short term/short lived "pet" turtle. 

He was released at the Wapsipinicon Access today!!   

Wish him luck!!!


  1. What a great story. It's so great you were able to find someone who could relocate the threatened turtle to a secluded area. With any luck he will really thrive there. Hopefully others will read your story and do the same if they encounter a turtle or other threatened species in danger.

  2. What an interesting story! Glad you did the right thing for this turtle, they are such amazing creatures!

  3. That was really considerate of you! Most people don't even think twice about taking a turtle home, if they encounter one. I know my brother did that quite a few times when he was younger. Thanks for sharing!

  4. That's so neat, and what a pretty turtle. When I was very little my family used to live by a creek in Knoxville, and a snapping turtle had come up into the street. I don't remember the experience very clearly, but they brought him back down to the creek.