Not every situation is an emergency or needs a wildlife rescue's help. Please see the information on our Found a Turtle? page to help determine if the turtle you found is truly in need of rescue.
Spring and summer are the busiest times for our turtle rescue. Turtles are up from hibernation and are out and about, often entering dangerous territory, in the search for food, mates, or a place to lay eggs. This means that we see more and more injured turtles.
We are the only state-permitted, dedicated turtle and tortoise rescue in Mississippi. Unfortunately, we can't be everywhere at once. If you have found a turtle that is injured and needs our help, collect the turtle (don't leave it!) and let us know right away by calling or texting (601) 672-1418 - please note that only emergencies are answered right away (injured/threatened turtles) Monday-Sunday, 7AM to 10PM Central Time. Non-emergency calls and texts, or calls and texts at night will be answered as soon as we're able. We have also put together a registry of other rescues and veterinary offices around Mississippi that may be able to help.
Please Keep In Mind
We can't always stop what we're doing to handle the next emergency. We are only two people, and we also have full-time jobs. We have a responsibility to the turtles already in our care, as well as a responsibility to the bosses that pay us. We will make every effort to get the injured turtle from you, but please have patience with us.
In most cases, we are not able to come to you, especially if you live more than 30 minutes away from our location in Florence, MS. We may ask that you bring the turtle to us, meet us closer to Florence, or we may seek volunteers to help transport the turtle from you to us. Volunteers are usually not arranged for quickly, so you might need to be prepared to hold onto the turtle for a bit, while we find transport, if you can't bring the turtle to us. We also have relationships with other all-species rescues and vet clinics around the state. Depending on where you are, it may be possible to take the turtle to one of those rescue centers or vet clinics, rather than try to get it all the way to us in Florence.
We reserve Sundays as the day we take care of weekly maintenance at our home and facility. If you have an emergency on a Sunday, please go ahead and call us. But please understand that we will not be able to come to you or meet you. You'll need to bring the injured turtle to us or arrange for transport to us.
If you've found an injured/sick turtle, DO NOT leave the turtle. If you call us to tell us about an injured turtle you've found, stay with the turtle until help can arrive, or take the turtle with you if you must leave. If you leave the turtle there unattended, it will not simply sit there and wait for rescue. As soon as you're gone and the turtle thinks he's no longer being watched, he will walk away to find somewhere he thinks is safe no matter how badly injured he is. **If you leave an injured turtle, we WILL NOT set out to find him. By the time we could get there, the turtle will be long gone. This is true no matter how bad he's injured. He will either walk off on his own, or a predator will get to him before we can.** If you absolutely cannot get to the turtle or stay with the turtle, call us anyway and let us know it wasn't possible to stay with him. Give us all the detail you can about his location. If we're able to at that moment, we will post on our Facebook page, and maybe someone near the turtle's location will see it and can go out and get him.
**DO NOT assume the turtle is dead ** Turtles have the uncanny ability to slow down their respiration to an almost imperceptible level. They can appear dead and not actually be dead. We don't pronounce a turtle dead until rigor mortis has set in (the turtle is stiff and the limbs unmovable) and/or the turtle gives off the unmistakable smell of decomposition.
We have personally seen horrendous injuries on a turtle that we are confident most anyone would assume was dead. The shell was totally crushed, organs were exposed and blood everywhere. When we picked the turtle up, we discovered it was very much alive and suffering horribly! Please don't assume the injuries are so bad so the turtle must be dead. :( If you see a turtle injured on the road, stop and check it. Give us a call. At the very least we can save it from dying slowly and painfully. And if the turtle is female, we might be able to save any eggs she's carrying, thereby saving her young.
We've also heard of cases where people have thought a turtle was dead and buried it in the yard, only to find the turtle dug out of its grave the next day.
TIPS for caring an injured turtle until it can get to us
FIRST ... please, please, please note the location where the injured turtle was found! This is critical information for a rescue or veterinary office to have. If the veterinary office doesn't ask for this information ... make them write it down in the file! Please! Once the turtle is rehabilitated (assuming it can be) it will be released back to the wild where it belongs. We CANNOT legally release box turtles unless we have the original location where they were picked up. Box turtles can only be released within a quarter of a mile of where they were found.
There is a good reason for this. Studies have shown that wild box turtles have something called "site fidelity" which is a fancy term that means they know their home and are loyal to it. If they're released somewhere other than their home range, they may spend their lives simply trying to get back home. This dangerous trek can very often end with the turtle's death. Additionally, releasing a turtle somewhere that is foreign to him could result in the transmission of pathogens or disease to other wild animals.
IF there is a veterinarian near you that will see turtles, take the turtle there for immediate care. Check our registry page for Mississippi vets and wildlife rescues who we know see turtles and tortoises.
Put the turtle in a box that is large and strong enough the turtle can't escape it. You can put towels, newspaper, or paper towels in the bottom of the box to make him more comfortable. Please don't underestimate a turtle's ability to climb. Make sure the container is tall and/or has a lid (with holes for air).
Keep the turtle dry. Unlike fish, aquatic turtles don't have to be in water to survive. They can safely be kept dry for several hours (or even longer) if needed. Putting a turtle in water spreads germs and bacteria into the wounded area, and also prevents blood from clotting. If the injury is severe enough it could also cause drowning. Placing the turtle in or on wet towels or blankets only serves to make the turtle cold.
Keep the turtle INDOORS, and keep him protected from insects. Some bugs, such as flies or gnats, will be attracted to the smell of blood, will land on the injuries, and will lay their eggs there. These eggs hatch into maggots, which can do serious damage to the turtle. Despite what you've seen on TV regarding maggots being beneficial to human wounds, maggots are NOT beneficial to turtle wounds. Other bugs, such as fire ants, can easily kill a turtle. If they smell blood, they will follow the smell, and can easily gang up on and take down a turtle - especially one that's been injured.
If the turtle is bleeding heavily, you can use some sterile gauze to help stem the flow. You can also wrap the turtle with sterile gauze to help stabilize any broken shell pieces that may be present.
DO NOT use any ointment, cream or salve
DO NOT offer an injured turtle food or water. Many aquatic turtle species cannot eat outside of water (and remember, we said NO water.) Unlike humans, turtles don't eat three meals a day. It will not harm the turtle to go several days without food. Turtles generally don't want to eat when they've been injured anyway. Just as you wouldn't offer a human a drink and a snack before the ambulance arrives, you don't need to offer a turtle a drink or snack either.
Keep the turtle warm and away from any drafts. A turtle's immune system is completely dependent on its body temperature, which unlike humans, they cannot maintain themselves. Their bodies are whatever temperature their environment is. If he's too cold, the healing process cannot begin. An ideal temperature range is 75-80 F. Many people accomplish these temps by placing the turtle in a closet or bathroom, where air conditioning generally doesn't circulate. If that isn't possible, placing the turtle near a table or desk lamp can provide extra warmth (just make sure the turtle doesn't overheat.)
Leave the turtle in silence. A warm, dark area where there is little to no activity, and away from pets is best. Only check on the turtle occasionally, and try to be quiet when doing so. Stress can inhibit immune response in turtles, so the more at-ease you can make him, the faster he'll heal. As strange as it may sound, a closet is often a great place to put an injured turtle temporarily until you can get help for him. It's dark, closed off and quieter than the rest of the house, and is often warmer and less drafty than the rest of the house.
If/when you transport the turtle, you can do so in the box you've already placed him in. Just make sure the box isn't so large that he'll slide around in it during transport. Try to be gentle with your driving, especially if the shell has been broken, to avoid any further damage to the shell. Do not place the turtle in the trunk or open bed of a pickup. He will quickly overheat this way, even on cooler days if the sun is out.
Most importantly, if you have stopped to help a turtle, THANK YOU! We will do everything we possibly can to get that turtle into care as quickly as possible. So many turtles would die slowly and painfully if it weren't for the kind human souls who choose to lend a hand. We appreciate you. You are turtle heroes!