Nova Scotia

Pregnant wood turtle hit by car, saved by Dartmouth vets

A mother wood turtle ready to lay her eggs suffered a fractured shell after she was run over Sunday on a Cape Breton highway. She ended up at a Dartmouth veterinary hospital.

Motorist rescues wood turtle after it was hit on a road in Cape Breton

Dartmouth veterinarians repaired this wood turtle's fractured shell after she was run over by a car. (Submitted by Barry MacEachern)

A pregnant wood turtle is recovering at a wildlife sanctuary after it had surgery to repair a fractured shell that occurred when she was run over by a car.

An X-ray revealed the turtle is carrying 11 eggs and was nearly ready to lay them when the accident occurred, Dr. Barry MacEachern of the Burnside Veterinary Hospital said Thursday.

"[She] came in through Hope For Wildlife. The whole piece was basically torn away from the body. She was not in great shape from being dehydrated and making a trip from Cape Breton," said MacEachern.

A motorist rescued the wood turtle after it was hit on a road in the Cape Breton community of Glendale and brought it to Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth, N.S. 

MacEachern and another vet, Hayley Inkpen, who works with Hope for Wildlife, helped tape up the turtle's shell, got her rehydrated and on painkillers and antibiotics, before beginning work on repairing the damage.

"We glue little hooks on the shell so we can wire it back together. You have to wait for the glue to dry, so the hooks were put on Tuesday night and we did the operation yesterday to put everything back together," said MacEachern.

The turtle will recuperate at wildlife sanctuary for the next eight to 12 weeks.

Eggscellent news

Meanwhile, everyone hopes she will feel better enough to lay her eggs.

"They should be viable eggs. It is nesting season, so she would have been wandering looking for somewhere to lay her eggs," said MacEachern.

He says the reason turtles often get hit by vehicles is that the gravel found near sidewalks in rural areas is a perfect spot for laying eggs.

As long as the turtle's pain is controlled and she is comfortable in her new surroundings, everything should be fine, says MacEachern.

The turtle weighs one kilogram and is about 27 centimetres in length.

She will likely shed her shell in pieces over the next couple of months.

Wood turtles are considered to be a threatened species in Canada. In Nova Scotia, they are considered "vulnerable," one step up from endangered.

MacEachern said it is not uncommon to see about a dozen cases of turtles being run over in late spring.

"The survival rate is 50-50 depending on how bad the fracture is, how long they sat beside the side of the road before someone brings them in," he said.

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