Update 5/11/15: Received email that the captions incorrectly identified the attending policeman. It was Office Palmer, not Officer Kelleher. Article and captions corrected! Turtle health update at the end of article.
On Monday, May 4th, I witnessed the tail end of a rescue from a drainpipe at Rosemary Lake. A resident had reported that a turtle was stuck in a pipe on the side of the lake. Due to the annual lake draining and the turtle posing as a plug, the Needham Public Works Department was alerted along with the local police and animal control.
When I got there, the 45-pound Common Snapping Turtle had been extricated from the pipe by Police Office Palmer and three DPW workers. Animal Control Officer Danielle Landry told me it had been there at least 24 hours, but she couldn’t ascertain its condition. While they thought the turtle was still breathing, no one could be certain, until it moved ever so slightly. Officer Palmer, with limited past experience with turtles, did his best to assess the creature’s condition and made sure it had no obvious wounds.
(I could not help with the turtle, so I thought it best I document the rescue with my trusty Nikon camera and Sigma lens. There seems to be one small facial wound, as can be seen in the third picture, but other health issues plagued the poor turtle from being stuck in the pipe for so many hours.)
Note to Readers: Please click on the photos to see a larger version and please click the link in the last paragraph to help support the medical care for this rescued reptile!
On his way home, a good neighbor stopped to help and provided the town staff with a ladder to aid in the rescue. Kiko Bracker and his daughter Story also conveyed the massive snapping turtle to the hospital. (A short video, presumably taken by Story Bracker, appears in the Gallery on the donation site, linked below.) Bracker isn’t just your typical nice guy, he also happens to be the Co-Director of Emergency & Critical Care at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. Alas, turtles are not his specialty, so he could not determine the turtle’s condition either.
After wrestling the turtle through the fence around the lake, Officer Palmer and Dr. Bracker moved the weighty Snapping Turtle to Bracker’s car trunk. Bracker insisted he personally transport the ailing animal to the hospital to be seen by wildlife specialists at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton, MA.
Later that night, after the trip to the hospital, Dr. Bracker said that the turtle was alive, but had a slow heart rate and that the Tufts Wildlife Clinic would keep it overnight for observation and treatment. The Snapping Turtle’s condition was listed as “guarded” and they are doing their best to save its life. It was put on a ventilator overnight, but was breathing on its own when I called Tuesday afternoon.
If it survives it will be brought back to Rosemary Lake. As of late Wednesday, Dr. Bracker wrote that “He is doing much better and is predicted to live!” The turtle is “decades old” said Dr. Bracker and
is probably much older than its weight the Tufts staff estimates it is at least 70 years old. (Common Snapping Turtles can live up to 100 years.) There are a few large snapping turtles in Rosemary Lake, which I saw in the drained lake on Tuesday and Wednesday. Under normal circumstances, one should never approach or handle these reptiles, because they move surprisingly fast and can deliver a limb severing bite.
Dr. Bracker noted that Tufts provides the treatment of injured wild animals at its own expense. They estimate the cost for our male Common Snapping Turtle to be around $3000. According to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic staff, “This includes daily care under critical level, radiographs, medications (pain, antibiotics, respiratory stimulants), cultures, fluid therapy, [and] blood work.”
If you could see to help with our aged not so-Common Snapping Turtle’s treatment costs, please donate any amount you can afford. Please make donations on a special page set up by Dr. Kiko and Story Bracker with Kara Holmquist, MSPCA Director of Advocacy, on the YouCaring site: Help cover the Needham Snapping Turtle’s veterinary care! You can also donate online through the wildlife fund on the Tufts University web site. Go to the Tuft University’s Give Now site and choose Cummings Veterinary School and when “Select an Area” appears, choose the Wildlife Program. You can dedicate your gift to Needham’s turtle or make it a Mother’s Day gift!
The Needham staff and the Brackers deserve much credit and a generous thank you for the gentle care and handling of this delicate wildlife emergency.
Update 5/11/15: The Tufts Wildlife Clinic told me that our turtle still has respiratory issues with a lot of gurgling sounds. He’s doing okay considering his ordeal. Dr. Bracker wrote on Saturday (5/9) that they have him in a “huge Rubbermaid basin with some water and a towel to sit on. He was covered up for peace and quiet. When he feet were touched he pulled them in and hissed like he meant business.”
Donations received are about 1/4 of the amount needed, so please help, if you can afford it!
Should We Give this Male Common Snapping Turtle a Name? If yes, please make a suggestion in the comments. Dr. Bracker noted on the donation site that the highest donor will get to name the turtle!