What to Do When You Find a Wild Turtle Either Injured or Crossing the Road

We get calls frequently about turtles being found in the wild and “needing” assistance. We’re glad to help but (evening though Google things we are) we’re not technically a rescue organization. That said, we can certainly help. Here’s a few main points to know.

  1. Identifying the turtle is important. It’s likely it’s native and protected. But if it’s not native, then it must be removed from the location and we will help at that point. See below for a list of native species. Do a Google search for images to see if they look similar. Identifying it makes it MUCH easier for me to help you and, in turn, the turtle.
  2. Virtually all native species are protected in Pennsylvania and taking them out of the wild is illegal in almost all circumstances.
  3. They develop a “home range” (usually as small as an acre or two) where they spend their entire lives. Moving them outside of this home range is likely to kill them. They recognize they are not “home” and will spend their lives searching- putting them in more danger of roadways, people moving them again, and lack of proper food and water.
  4. The best thing to do is move them to the other side of the road in the direction they are heading and allow them to continue on their way.
  5. Injury (including a cracked shell) is not a death sentence. I have seen healed and happy animals in the wild with holes in their body and parts of their shell missing. A little antibiotic ointment can’t hurt, but beyond that there’s no one we know of who will do emergency “repair” to an injured turtle.
  6. But what about turtles found in an “unsafe” environment. Sadly the answer is still the same. Most are protected and illegal to “help.” But most don’t need help. Allowing them to continue on their way is almost always the best thing to do to help. I have found them within the city of Philadelphia in a small wooded alley before. If you find them somewhere, they probably are OK there.
  7. We’re only a phone call away and don’t mind offering some knowledge to help out. 95% of the time we’re going to tell you to set the turtle free EXACTLY where you found it… but if you’re still unsure, just give us a call.

List of native PA species: Great link https://www.paherps.com/herps/turtles/

Eastern Box Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle

Midland Painted Turtle

North American Wood Turtle

Spotted Turtle

Bog Turtle

Northern Map Turtle

Eastern Musk Turtle

Eastern Mud Turtle

Northern Redbelly Cooter/Slider

Blandling’s Turtle

Eastern Spiny Softshell

Midland Smooth Softshell