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Car-cracked B.C. western painted turtle on mend in Williams Lake

Scout Island Nature Centre says turtle’s shell stable, recovery expected but it could take time
A western painted turtle in Williams Lake suns herself Thursday, May 30. She continues to get better after being run over by a vehicle on May 15. (Megan Taylor photograph)

It will be at least a month or two before a western painted turtle injured in Williams Lake will be able to return to her habitat.

Two weeks ago on May 15, 2024, the female turtle was run over by a vehicle and left for dead on the causeway into Scout Island Nature Centre.

“Her shell is stable but it will take a bit of time,” said Megan Taylor, co-executive director of Scout Island Nature Centre on Thursday, May 30.

“So far she looks likes she is doing well.”

The bridge on either side of the turtle’s upper shell was cracked on both sides and pushed in from the injury.

Taylor’s partner, veterinarian Dr. Don Deitrick of the Animal Care Hospital in Williams Lake, is taking care of the injured turtle.

Deitrick sedated the turtle and pulled the shell out on each side, Taylor explained.

“We took a thin wire covered in medical tape and wrapped it around her like a cast to stabilize it. She does not have much clearance underneath so you cannot put much there.”

Through the last two weeks, Deitrick has been consulting with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre who estimated the turtle is more than 40 years of age.

He sent the centre the turtle’s weight and measurements of her tail, carapace (upper shell), plastron (under belly), toenails and photos of the anal vent.

“They said she was beautiful and based on her size could be over 40 and quite possibly older,” Taylor said. “That’s pretty amazing. We also did an X-ray and from what we could tell, there weren’t any eggs.”

As she is an entomologist and not a turtle expert, Taylor has been reading to learn as much as she can about turtles.

Taylor and Deitrick are feeding her plants from the marshes at Scout Island, red and dark coloured lettuces and some pellets that contain freeze dried fresh water shrimp and meal worms, and a little bit of cranberries.

“Apparently when they are younger they tend to eat more worms and grubs, but when they get older tend toward eating more vegetation and plant material,” Taylor said.

Taylor hopes the turtle’s plight will help raise awareness.

“Williams Lake is pretty much as far north as western painted turtles go and that’s pretty cool,” she added. “This is really something to be celebrated.”

In June the hatchlings from the nest will emerge and they will be coming around the roadsides so the public is urged to be on the look out.

“Turtles are slow anyways, but the little babies are even slower,” she said. “I would ask people to be mindful when they are driving by places where there is a marsh, pond or lake and realize they could be in turtle country.”

The survival rate of hatchlings growing to an adult mature enough to start mating is less than one per cent, she added.

For western painted turtles it takes the males 12 to 15 years to become sexually mature and eight to 10 years for the females.

“It is the biggest bang for your buck to be fixing the older turtles that are successfully reproductive because you know you have one that can mate and reproduce,” she said. “Right now they are not able to reproduce at a level to replace themselves because of habitat destruction and road kill.”

READ MORE: Painted turtle run over by vehicle near Cariboo nature centre

READ MORE: Rescued gosling in Cariboo a reminder to keep wildlife wild: vet

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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