Blanding’s Turtle Make Over

Pieces, Parts, and Picture Hangers

Meet Sumner. He is a Blanding’s Turtle who was hit by a car in Fayette County on April 27th. A Good Samaritaninjured blandings turtle called the injury into Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project and the Blanding’s turtle was transported to our office. He was missing a sizeable portion of his shell.

Dr. Cherney, always up for a challenge, wanted to try to piece the shell back together. With the help of the orthopedic surgical wizard, Dr. Tom Taylor, the two worked together to devise a plan for fixing Sumner’s shell.

It took a few tries (there isn’t exactly a standard procedure for this fix), some epoxy, and items used for hanging pictures. Over 5 hours of “surgery” later, the Blanding’s turtle has a shell back.

It may not look high tech, but this technique does come from professional journals. (Who said veterinarians weren’t a creative bunch?!?)

shell repair on a Blanding's Turtle

Why Picture Hangers?

The metal offers stability, but is lightweight. The hinges bend so they will curve with the shell. A traditional bone plate is flat and won’t curve to the shell. And, frankly, the hangers are easy to find and inexpensive. (Shh, don’t tell Sumner. We don’t want him to think we went cheap on him.)

His shell will eventually regenerate and the metal hangers will be removed. There is no epoxy in between the shell pieces, just on the exterior. This is safe for him and allows the shell to grow together.

What Is Next?

blandings turtle basking in sun

Sumner 3 days after surgery!

Sumner will be slow to heal. Thankfully, he is doing quite well. He is with a licensed wildlife rehabber who is watching his recovery carefully. He gets daily soaks in water, treated with antibiotics, and a little outside sun time. Sounds turtle-rific to us!

The goal of all wildlife rehab work is to get the critters back on their feet (or flippers or fins or wings) and released back into the wild. The same goes for this Blanding’s turtle as well.

What can you do?

turtle crossing signKeep a watchful eye on the road. We share it with many and some don’t know the rules. If you see injured wildlife, contact BHWRP. Leave a message on their hotline (319-277-6511). Transporting the wildlife (AFTER getting proper instructions) is always appreciated. These rehabbers are volunteers and have jobs like anyone else.

If you see a turtle making his/her way across a roadway, you can stop and help them across (keep your own safety in mind, of course). If you do help move them, make sure it is in the same direction they are heading. Don’t take them back to where they started as if to keep them off the road. Keep them going in the direction they started even if the area looks like an odd choice.

Sumner does need earthworms, minnows, and crawdads. If anyone can help supply those, leave contact information on the hotline and a volunteer will be in touch to make arrangements.

Lastly, Sumner is lucky. While he is worthy of this care, he can’t pay for it on his own. (Turtles don’t have pockets for wallets.) BHWRP is all volunteer and a 501(c)3 nonprofit. If you would care to help Sumner, and all wildlife, rest assured your donation goes straight to the care, feeding, and medical bills of these creatures. There are no salaries or glossy annual reports—just hard working Iowans trying to do the right thing, one critter at a time.

Blanding’s Turtle Quick Facts:

  • Blanding’s turtles are one of few species of turtles that can eat food on land and water.
  • They eat crawfish, worms, slugs, aquatic and land vegetation, and berries.
  • Humans are their biggest enemy. We drive cars and drain or change their natural habitat (marshes and wetlands).
  • They are a protected species in many states. It is illegal to have one or even the shell of one.
  • They rarely bite.
  • They have a distinguishing bright yellow underside to the throat.
  • They like wet, marshy areas with sandy spots for laying their eggs. This is why the gravel and sandy areas along roadsides might be appealing to them.
  • They are long lived—up to 70 years!
  • They emerge in April (from the bottom of muddy marshes) and start to feed in April and May. They court each other and begin to nest in June.