BEFORE you contact us or any other wildlife rescue, there are a few things to consider.
Not all situations require rescue. If you determine the turtle does require our help, our contact info is toward the bottom of this page. IF you pick up a turtle, please, please, please take note of the location where you found it. This is critical information for us and any other rescue if the turtle is able to be released once rehabilitated. We have also included a page with contact information for Other Wildlife Rescues in Mississippi that might be able to help.
When in doubt, contact us!
Is the turtle native to Mississippi? If you're not sure, don't hesitate to ask us. It's helpful if you take several pictures of the turtle (top, bottom, face, tail) that you can text message to us. Non-native turtles (released or escaped pets usually) do not need to be roaming the wilds of our state. If you've found a non-native turtle, we'll need to get the turtle from you.
Is the turtle injured or in a dangerous location? If the answer to both of those questions is "no", and the turtle is a native species, then do nothing. The turtle will be fine. If the turtle is in a dangerous location, it's perfectly fine to move it to safety so long as you stay safe yourself in doing so.
If the turtle you found is injured, gently collect the turtle and put it in a clean, dry container in a warm but shaded area away from pets or potential predators. Do not attempt to apply any type of first aid. Give us a call, shoot us an email, or contact a qualified reptile vet in your area for assistance. See our Turtle Emergency page for more detailed information on helping an injured turtle or tortoise.
Never release a turtle directly into a lake/pond unless you are absolutely positive that it is an aquatic turtle. Box turtles (that look a whole lot less "boxy" when they're babies) cannot swim. If you mistakenly throw a box turtle or tortoise into a pond, it will drown. It's best to set a turtle down near the water, but not in it.
If you see a turtle on the road, please do not take chances with your own safety. Only stop to help if you can do so safely. If you do stop, make sure the turtle is native to Mississippi, then take the turtle to the side of the road he was heading toward. (If you put him back in the direction he came from, he'll just try to cross the road again). **If the turtle is crossing a large divided highway such as an interstate, take the turtle back from the direction it came from, and place him/her as far off the road as possible.
If you found a box turtle, please keep in mind that box turtles have a "home range" - an area about the size of a football field where he will spend his entire life. If you move it outside his home range, he will spend the rest of his life trying to get back to where his instincts tell him is home.
Photo courtesy of wildlifecenter.org
PLEASE never take a wild turtle home to keep as a pet. Many of Mississippi's native turtles are facing population declines, and one of the leading reasons for this is people taking them from the wild to keep as pets. Box turtles, for example, "are long lived animals that are relatively slow in reproducing. They reach sexual maturity only after four or five (or possibly twenty!) years of life, produce relatively small numbers of eggs, and have a high hatchling mortality rate." (source, PennsState University.) In fact, a female box turtle typically takes half a century or more to produce just two offspring that survive to reproductive age. So, every single wild turtle is important, in order to make sure they're still around for future generations. Also, many wild turtles don't adapt well to captivity. You may not see outward signs that your new pet turtle is in trouble, but bringing one into your home could shorten its life by decades. Let the wild turtles stay wild. If you're interested in having a pet turtle, why not adopt one that needs a home? Check out or adoptions page to learn more!
I Have a Pet Turtle that I Can't Keep
Unfortunately, our facility is not a sanctuary. We have very limited space, and that space is reserved for turtles who have been injured or are recovering from illness, and are undergoing rehab with us. If you've found yourself unable to care for your pet turtle:
PLEASE do not release your turtle into the wild. Once a pet, always a pet. In captivity, turtles are exposed to pathogens and bacteria that are not found in the wild. If you release your turtle, he or she then takes those germs with him to the wild where he will encounter other wild turtles. Those wild turtles, having never been exposed to those specific germs, may not be able to tolerate them, and the germs could make them sick. Additionally, if you've had your turtle for some time, he now associates humans with his food supply. In the wild, turtles need to be suspicious and fearful of humans. Not all humans are nice to turtles. In short, releasing a turtle that has been kept as a pet is potentially harmful to both your turtle, and to the wild populations of turtles he would encounter in the wild.
If you can't keep your turtle due to limited funds to upgrade to a larger tank or enclosure, we'll be glad to share with you some budget ideas for turtle housing.
If you can't keep your turtle for any other reason, we suggest listing him for adoption on sites such as PetFinder, Craigslist, or Facebook. We would also be happy to list him or her with our own adoptable turtles here on our website. If this is an avenue you'd like to explore, please send a few good, clear photos of your turtle, the turtle's name, species, sex, age (if known), and your contact information to our Adoptions Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a question about turtle care?
The best site anywhere on the internet for turtle care questions is TurtleForum.com. There are hundreds of experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful members that can happily assist with all your turtle care needs.
*Please note - this rescue is not staffed full-time. This is a home-based facility, run by a husband and wife team, both of whom work full time jobs. We will make every effort to respond to calls, emails, texts, and messages as quickly as possible. If you need immediate assistance and cannot reach us, please try contacting a local reptile vet (Google reptile vet for a listing), a licensed wildlife rehabber in your area, the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, or the Jackson Zoo. You can find contact information for other wildlife rescues in MS on our Wildlife Rescuespage.
*The map below is left intentionally vague. We are not open to the public, nor do we accept dropped-off turtles. (If a turtle is dropped off while we're not home, the temperatures, weather, insects, or even predators near our home could be dangerous or fatal for any turtles that are just left there. This map is simply for those who may not know where Florence is in Mississippi. If you need to bring us a turtle, call first.)
If you are unable to contact us, or if you are not in the central Mississippi area, Animal Help Now is a fantastic resource for finding wildlife rehabilitators or veterinarians across the United States. There is also an accompanying app for both iOS and Android.