During recent field monitoring of wild, juvenile western painted turtles, biologists from the Coastal Painted Turtle Project noticed an adult female turtle on shore. They continued their radio-telemetry work and when they were done, the turtle was still there. At this time of year, western painted turtles should be getting ready to hibernate and the skilled field workers, Aimee Mitchell and Deanna MacTavish, knew it was unusual for turtles to be on land. They suspected the turtle might be ill and wouldn’t be able to recover in time to hibernate properly.
After the turtle was given the all clear from the vet, she was transferred to the Wildlife Preservation Canada facility to stay intensive care for that last two weeks. She receives antibiotics daily and we tube feed her. She’s getting turkey based baby food (yum! – not). She is slowly gaining weight. She’s gone from her initial 280 grams up to 317 grams. When a turtle is this ill, we look for the smallest signs of improvement. For example, on Thursday she was holding her head up and out of the water instead of floating like a rag doll. Every morning when we get into the lab we wonder if she’ll still be alive. So far so good. She’s a fighter. She even expelled water onto the Greater Vancouver Zoo’s vet tech (who helps me tube feed her) because she was annoyed after a feed. A show of attitude is a great indicator that the turtle is feeling better.
Turtles are pretty hardy and I have high hopes for her recovery. As long as she gains weight and starts to pick up eating on her own, she should make a full recovery and be ready to join the other turtles back in the wild in the spring.
Breaking news (for us at least) – She ate a fish all on her own Sunday morning! We are hoping for a full recovery and release in the spring!