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A Box Turtle, Discarded

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's easy to forget the other little patients in my care when I'm yanging on and on about just the two starlets, Stella and Mirabel. Does anyone remember Benson?

Last August, we were walking Dean's Fork with Tim Ryan and Nina Harfmann and Shila Wilson and Phoebe called, "I found a turtle!"





Phoebe and Tim came back with the report that the turtle was soaking in a creek (never a good sign) and his coloring was off. Another bad sign. Turtles who feel lousy crawl to the nearest water and soak for days or weeks. Pale or "off" coloration indicates malnutrition.  Just look at his eyes--the irides are white. They should be blazing red!

You can see that he started life as a beautiful, highly colored turtle, but something has befallen him.


A closer look revealed that this poor gent was suffering from a bilateral ear infection, something that can strike a turtle who isn't getting what he needs. The ear infection, it turned out, was not his major problem.

Because I am not a veterinarian nor am I a surgeon, I asked Tim Ryan to drop "Benson," as Phoebe named him, off at the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus on his way back to the airport. Tim was happy to leave several extra hours to make that happen, and he's remained in touch about Benson ever since.

Not long after, I was up there myself, and I spoke to my rehab guru, Lisa Fosco of OWC. 
She showed me several aspects of Benson's overall condition that indicated to her that he was a long-term captive.


It's hard to convey it in a photograph, but the back of Benson's shell shows malformation. It's sunken in on the sides, it drops straight down in back, and is a bit knobby over the pelvis, and it's got a wide outward-trending flange that goes out over his hind legs. That, his emaciated condition, the poor soft part coloration and the bilateral ear infection (very common in malnourished captive boxies) all indicated to Lisa that Benson had been abducted from the wild and kept in substandard conditions years earlier.

"But I found him in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of hundreds of acres of woods!" I said. And then I realized that Dean's Fork is perfectly accessible by car or ATV or foot, and Benson was found just a few yards off the road, soaking in a creek in late August. If you had a longterm captive turtle who just kept getting sicker and all you knew is you wanted to get rid of him, what would you do with him? Dump him by a creek in the middle of several hundred acres of woods and hope for the best, that's what you'd do. 

Poor Benson. He felt horrible. But he snapped at and ate a sowbug that crawled by him, and he cleaned up a mess of earthworms and fruit, and his life was about to get a whole lot better.

Benson got his ear abscesses opened and scraped out and then spent almost a year in the care of one of OWC's expert box turtle rehabilitators. And one fine day I got a call that Benson was ready to go. 

It took me awhile to get up to Columbus, but I picked him up on May 9 when Bill and I went to participate in Columbus Audubon's superfun "Wine and Warblers" event at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center.  Hic. 

He was a different turkle. Just wait 'til you see him.



11 comments:

oh, i can't wait!

Don't leave us hanging!

It's so hard to understand why we humans do this to such beautiful wild creatures. And it makes me feel sad that Benson had to endure that kind of a life.

What will you do about the problem of Benson not knowing where his *territory* is?

Poor guy. Life's hard enough for wild critters without people making them captives and not even doing it well. He's so lucky you found him - a 'good' undoing a 'bad'. Happy release day.

hmmm, let's see, birds, bats, box turtles, Boston Terriers, and a Bill... I think I see a pattern here. Is there a post on Bigfoot in the works?
In any event, good luck to Benson!

This comment has been removed by the author.

I'm getting the tissues back out. I think I still have some after sniffing thru the bats' release. I am so thankful for happy endings.

Can't wait to see Benson in full living color!

Happy to read this, needed a good story. I rescued a turtle Saturday in the middle of a busy freeway and had a driver stop to yell at me. Said saving a turtle was stupid, let him get killed. I was horrified. Nothing like standing stupefied in the middle of traffic. Anyways, the turtle is safe and swimming contentedly in a nearby pond. I'm just glad I got to him before that big jerk did. Nor did he deter me- I'll continue to save my little friends.

Posted by Anonymous June 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Between running hither and yon (Alaska to Maine and various points in between) running a business and a family how do you find time to take care of your your feathered,furred,shelled and scaled friends.

Your energy is amazing.

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