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, please let us know right away by calling or texting (601) 672-1418 (emergencies only, please.) But we ask you to please understand that we are only a two-person team, and we both work full-time jobs outside of the rescue. 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 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.
We won't always be able to come to you, especially if you live over an hour away from Jackson. In those cases, we may ask that you bring the turtle to us, meet us closer toward Jackson, 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.
DO NOT leave the turtle. If you call us to tell us about an injured turtle, stay with the turtle until help can arrive or take the turtle with you if you must leave. If you leave the turtle there, 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. **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.**
**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 tenth of a mile of where they were found.
There is a good reason for this. Wild box turtles have a home range. If they're released somewhere other than their home range, they'll spend their lives simply trying to get back home. This often takes them over dangerous territory and across very dangerous roads.
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.
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.
Keep the turtle INDOORS, and keep him protected from flies or gnats. These bugs 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.
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. Neosporin/triple antibiotic ointment can be placed on minor open wounds to help kill bacteria, and to help prevent any gauze from sticking to the wounds.
DO NOT use any ointment, cream or salve on deep wounds (for example, on shell breaks where you can see the membranes, tissues, or organs underneath.)
Never put any ointment, cream, or salve where it could get into the turtle's eyes, nose, or mouth.
DO NOT offer an injured turtle food. Many aquatic turtle species cannot eat outside of water (and remember, we said NO water.) Turtles generally don't want to eat when they've been injured anyway.
Keep the turtle warm and away from any drafts. A turtle's immune system is completely dependent on its body temperature. 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.
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 heros!