Meet Andrea, a beautiful female Blanding’s turtle. Andrea has a story, her story of a journey interrupted. She was a mature turtle when the accident happened. Andrea was close to 20 years old, which is approximately how long it takes for a Blanding’s turtle to mature. It was during her journey across land and quite a distance from the familiar body of water she called home. She was in search of that perfect nesting site where she planned to dig and deposit her eggs. A Blanding’s can lay up to 12 eggs.

Turtles can travel quite a distance in their search of a nesting site. Blanding’s turtles are often called the “wanderer”. One Blanding’s was tracked during a turtle’s active season which is April until October. That Blanding’s had traveled 5 km .Quite a distance for a turtle! Andrea encountered many obstacles during this journey. Crossing roads and fields, which can be very precarious terrain. Turtles are totally focused on this one objective as they make this trek; they forge forward against all odds. It was during one of the road crossings that Andrea was struck, she most likely retracted herself into her shell as cars and trucks whizzed by, yet her shell was not enough to protect her against the large mechanical predator. She laid there in the hot sun helpless as the intense heat beat down upon her. Andrea surely would have perished on that roadway if it had not been for the human that pulled off to the side and came to her aid.  An incredible act of kindness. Andrea had just been given a second chance!

She was taken to the OTCC and admitted to the Trauma Centre where her wounds were stabilized by the vet technician that was on duty that day, given pain medication because the technician knew that Andrea was in incredible pain and possibly shock. Antibiotics and fluids were also administered. This was over 10 years ago. Due to the extent of her injuries, which consisted of losing her right eye, damage to her left eye, serious head trauma and a large fracture to her top shell the carapace, Andrea would not be able to return to her home. The serious injuries left Andrea blind. Dr. Sue Carstairs performed the surgery needed to repair the damage to her carapace. It took a long time for Andrea to heal because turtle’s have slow metabolism, but she did heal!

Andrea has adjusted to life at the OTCC remarkably well. She can find her own food and is an amazing turtle ambassador for this threatened species. She has a very important role in the education program offered by the OTCC. Thousands of students and participants throughout Ontario learn all about Ontario’s turtles and Andrea’s story has quite an impact. Participants hear how the OTCC is helping hundreds of injured and several displaced turtles every year. Many are successfully rehabilitated and returned to their original habitat.

Through the sharing of Andrea’s story we can easily see how a difference can be made by any individual in ensuring that Ontario’s native turtle species survives. By stopping when safe to do so and helping a turtle off the road by taking them always in the direction they were heading can save lives. If possible please stop if you see an injured turtle on the road, place the turtle in a secure container with air holes, no water and contact the OTCC. The sooner we can get the injured turtle to the OTCC the better the chances of survival.

This is Andrea’s story of her interrupted journey. Watch for our next blog that will focus on Shellbie, a Midland Painted who also calls the OTCC home.

Wendy Baggs – Education Coordinator