Western pond turtles are starting to wake up and unfortunately they are also getting hit by cars! They are on their great migration from winter hibernation to their home ponds. This means they are often crossing roads. A turtle’s shell is tough but it is no competition against a car going 55 miles an hour.
The painted turtle and the western pond turtle are the only two species of turtles native to Oregon. Unfortunately, both are threatened due to invasive turtle species (often former exotic pets), habitat loss and degradation, and people illegally taking them in as pets. Both species are listed as “sensitive-critical” and are threatened or endangered in parts of their habitat. We are lucky in Southern Oregon to have a decent population of western pond turtles.
Did you know that pond turtles are not fully aquatic? Pond turtles are known to journey up into forested areas during winter months to hibernate. Once it warms up, they migrate back towards areas with water. This seasonal migration puts turtles in situations where they have to cross roads and through yards. If you see a turtle crossing a road, if it is safe to do so, move it to the side of the road that it is headed.
If you see a turtle that has been hit or hit a turtle, call your local wildlife rehabilitator for help. Each year, Wildlife Images takes care of a few pond turtles that are hit by cars.
As most people know, turtles do not move very quickly. They have a slow metabolism and this means that they heal very slowly from injuries. If we get a turtle in with a cracked shell, we can expect to have that turtle for 6-12 months or sometimes even longer. Last May, we had a patient come in with a bad shell fracture that crossed his back. Luckily, he pulled through and we are close to release! Look for more details in the next Wildlife Images Newsletter!