Turtle hit by car airlifted 400 km for medical care

A snapping turtle injured by a car in Ontario has been airlifted more than 400 kilometres to an animal hospital, and is now on a slow road to recovery.

Windsor, Ont., pilot flies snapping turtle from Sarnia to Peterborough trauma centre

Injured turtle Porter suffered extensive facial injuries but is recovering at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Peterborough, Ont. (Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre)

A snapping turtle injured by a car in Ontario has been airlifted more than 400 kilometres to an animal hospital, and is now on a slow road to recovery.

The turtle was hit by the car in Sarnia in southwestern Ontario, and needed emergency medical treatment at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Peterborough.

Windsor pilot Rick Woodall is a volunteer with Pilots N Paws, a national animal rescue group. Normally, he helps to relocate animals that would otherwise be euthanized — mainly dogs and cats — to new homes.

On May 11, he received word about the turtle from Heaven's Wildlife Rescue, near Sarnia, which couldn't help the severely injured animal.

"I just assumed it was a dog. When I found out it was a turtle, my daughter insisted the turtle needed to fly," Woodall told CBC's Ontario Morning host Wei Chen.

Pilots N Paws is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteer pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of animals.

Once Woodall accepted the 60-minute flight, he was given a second turtle to transport. The two were put in separate boxes and loaded onto his small, homemade two-seater plane — a Van's RV-9.

"I didn't know it existed," he said of the turtle trauma centre. "And to be honest, I didn't know so many people were working so hard to save turtles."

His only instruction was to "'get 'em there, quick,'" he said.

Spring is an extremely dangerous time of year for turtles. Many are injured while trying to cross busy roads to lay eggs near water. The majority of them don't make it.

Sue Carstairs, the medical and executive director at the Peterborough trauma centre, said the turtle that staff named Porter suffered extensive facial injuries and "quite a bit of blood loss."

She added: "He's had plenty of pain medication, that's for sure. Bit by bit, we're putting him back together. It was a little bit gory to see, but he's a lot more handsome now.

"He has a good prognosis, despite all his injuries."

The other turtle, a Blanding's species, is scheduled for release this weekend.

It was the first time a turtle had ever been flown to the turtle trauma centre.

"They were quiet and enjoyed the flight," Woodall said of the turtles. "It was for a purpose and it was a fun purpose."

The entire effort was done on a volunteer basis, including the treatment in Peterborough.