Injured turtle flown from Sarnia for treatment in Peterborough
Rick Woodall was at home in Windsor last Saturday watching sports with friends when he got the call.
It was urgent.
A turtle was in trouble.
The 14-pound snapping turtle had been hit by a car on a busy highway in Sarnia. Its skull was fractured in at least four places and it was losing blood. While folks at Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue in Sarnia had stabilized the turtle and given it pain medication, it would have to be taken to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre for its jaw to be properly set.
“That poor turtle,” says Peggy Jenkins, owner of Heaven’s Rescue, as she remembers getting the call from a man unsure what to do with the injured turtle he’d just found on the road near his house. “It was in extremely bad condition. We knew we’d have to do the transfer to the Trauma Centre, but we didn’t have anyone who could make that long drive from Sarnia to Peterborough.”
So, Woodall jumped into his plane and headed out into the cold, blustery night.
It was the first time a turtle had ever flown in Woodall’s small, homemade airplane. He signed up for Pilots N Paws only a few months ago, expecting to help the nationwide organization of pilots transport injured dogs and other more commonplace creatures to animal hospitals throughout Ontario.
He’d never expected to have a turtle as a passenger.
He had a quick 20-minute flight from Windsor to Sarnia. Once there, Jenkins helped Woodall pack the snapping turtle into his plane, along with another turtle that’d also been injured on a highway a little earlier.
He flew them to Peterborough, where they were welcomed into the Turtle Trauma Centre by Kate Siena, fundraising co-ordinator for the organization that rescues and cares for injured turtles.
“Every spring, female turtles wake from hibernation and have to cross busy roads to nest and lay their eggs near water,” explains Siena. “Many turtles don’t make it. They get hit by cars and killed. Around seven out of eight species of turtle are at risk right now of going extinct.”
Only one in every 100 young turtles makes it to adulthood. Because most species of turtle take around 20 years to breed, it takes more than 200 eggs and 20 years to replace just one turtle killed by a car.
The turtles are not the only ones in trouble, however. The number of turtles at the trauma centre has doubled since last winter, when it was caring for 213. Many of the turtles cannot be released until they are fully healed, which can take many months. Space at the centre is running short.
“This place is one of Peterborough’s treasures,” she says. “We should be fighting to keep it going and to keep it here.”
Both turtles are recovering well. The snapping turtle will soon have its jaw set using wire, and staff hope to release it next spring. Until then, it resides at the centre, wrapped in bandages and lounging on a wet towel. It will be well taken care of.
From Windsor, to Sarnia, to Peterborough, many people have come together to help these turtles, and they’ll continue to help whenever another turtle finds itself in trouble, they say.
“It’s just a nice little story,” says Woodwall. “It’s a nice story about a bunch of nice people getting together to try to do some good in the world.”