Team Effort to Airlift a Turtle to Peterborough
Porter Photo By Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre
Last spring Port Franks Ontario resident Bill Mallett found an injured 13-pound male snapping turtle injured on the road. The snapper, Mallett suitably named Porter, was in bad shape with both its upper and lower jaw fractured in multiple areas. Mallet thought Port had no chance of survival as the turtle was bleeding pretty badly. Mallett’s heart went out to the poor guy as he carried the animal off the road. He called the OPP who referred him to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC), a non-profit registered charity in Peterborough that operates a hospital for injured wild turtles and releases them back into the wild when healthy. KTTC referred Mallett to Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue, a turtle rescue center in Oil Springs On, which is closer to Port Franks.
Mallett loaded the turtle into his van with his sweater lightly wrapped around the turtle to cover the bleeding animal and keep him in a dark calm place. When he got to Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue Mallett found out the snapping turtle was in worst shape then he thought, and Porter would need KTTC’s talent to fix him up. But how was Mallett going to get to the turtle to Peterbrough?
Peggy Jenkins, who runs Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue, thought of Pilots N Paws Canada, a volunteer-based community of Canadian pilots that helps Canadian-based rescue organizations, shelters, and groups when animals are in need of transportation in Canada. Pilot Rick Woodall was surprised when he found out he was transporting a turtle but he made the 400 km journey to Peterborough safely, even after a bad storm with some helpful encouragement from his 13 year old daughter.
At KTTC medical director, Dr. Sue Carstairs, discovered that the Porter had so many jaw fractures that the normal wiring technique would not work. Instead she used tape to secure each fracture in place in order to heal.
[Someone might wonder why so many volunteers offered their concern, time, and resources to protect a single snapping turtle. The answer may rest in the fact the number of turtles and turtle species in Ontario is declining. Slow reproductive rates and low egg and hatchling survivability, combined with threats such as habitat decline, increased predation of eggs by raccoons or skunks, and road mortality may cause snapping turtle populations to become threatened.
Snapping turtles can live to be 70-80 years old, however females do not begin to lay eggs until they are 17 to 19 years of age. The likelihood of offspring survival in turtles is very low, which means that a female turtle will have to lay many eggs over the course of her life for just one of her offspring to survive. The loss of one reproducing adult can have significant impacts on the population.
Snapping turtles have a very small plastron compared to the other turtles. The plastron is the relatively flat part of a turtle shell in the belly area. That makes snapping turtles very vulnerable on land because they can’t retract into their shell for protection. If a turtle is underneath a car and between its tires, the turtle may snap,as that is their only means of self-defence. Often this could lead to their own injury or death.
“If you can’t pass safely then stop,” Mallett said. “Don’t drive over top of it.” ]
Great job Bill Mallett!