How to care for a wild tortoise that's on the mend after being hit by a car?
July 2, 2011 7:22 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine came across this wild tortoise on the road, outside Querétaro, México. She took it to the vet, who patched her up, sowed up the bits that needed sowing and put most of the shell back together, sans a couple of pieces. It's about 10 inches long. She's going to have to take care of it until it's well enough to go back to the wild and has no clue how to go about it. Off the top of her head, she'd like to know: ¿What should it eat? ¿Should she place it outside in the garden or in the house? ¿Sun or shade? ¿Water, earth, or both? ¿Will the Labrador retriever be a problem? ¿Should her trio of rambunctious kids be kept away? Any other interesting fact or recommendation you can share will be most welcome, and will surely net you a beer on your next visit.
posted by Cobalt to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
have her ask the vet who patched up the tortoise.

if they treat them medically, they should be able to give you advice on how to handle the healing stage (they really should have given her discharge instructions).
posted by virginia_clemm at 7:31 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

does she live in or near the area where she found the tortoise? Most torts eat mostly vegetables so gathering a selection of various wild plants in the area, and seeing what the tortoise likes to eat, would be the best way to get food for it. Keeping it in a pen outside, in as close to its natural environment (but protected from bugs, coyotes, etc, while it heals) would be best. A shallow dish for water, a place to hide, and room to wander about, and plenty of natural sunlight and warmth, are what's needed, I think. She'll have to be careful that flies and insects don't infest the wounds; also that the healing process may be slow, because shell is bone and it grows slowly.
posted by The otter lady at 7:39 PM on July 2, 2011

I'm no expert, but I think that's a turtle, not a tortoise (there are only a few species of tortoise in the region, they're all desert tortoises, and from the photo the elongate body and head look all wrong). This makes a difference about food and water.

I strongly recommend getting expert help with this, either the vet or a local expert (zoo? university?) - in the mean time you might try here:

Until you hear better advice, I'd go for a secure pet cage outside, maybe on a porch, with somewhere to get out of the sun and a wide dish of fresh water not deep enough to drown in. Some species have quite special dietary requirements, but you could try giving it some lettuce and a few worms or crickets. Keep the kids and the dogs away - kids for a while, dog forever. Watch the wound care, don't stress it, and sadly be prepared for a bad outcome.

But first, find out what it is and what it needs.
posted by cromagnon at 8:40 PM on July 2, 2011

Not an expert, but it looks like the picture of the Mexican Mud Turtle here. If so, it's aquatic and eats fish and stuff. It looks like it fits the distribution area but they're not very big turtles so 10 inches would be too big.

Our aquatic turtle *LOVES* shrimps (freshwater packed in water) and dead insects of all types except grasshoppers. She will eat things like kale and stuff but really, the dead animals is where she's at.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:30 PM on July 2, 2011

Wow, your friend absolutely positively needs the help of the vet! I can't imagine why the vet didn't leave her with basic care information of this wounded animal. People in this thread are suggesting everything from wild plants to shrimp, but unless she has someone identify what this animal is, these are complete guesses.

For god's sake, keep pets and kids away from it. It's a wild animal, it's hurt, and as cromagnon says, stressed.
posted by Specklet at 12:21 AM on July 3, 2011

I have no experience of turtles/tortoises, but my experience working with feral cats would say this:

- Keep the kids and the dogs far, far away. It is a wild animal that is stressed and in pain. If it feels under threat, it will bite, and you may not be able to tell when it feels under threat.

- Somewhere quiet, cool and dark would be best. It is recovering, so it needs to be kept quiet and with as little stress as possible.

- Definitely ask the vet about food. If it gets the right food, it will heal quicker.

Hope that is helpful!
posted by baggers at 7:13 AM on July 3, 2011

Here are some better pictures of the critter: 1, 2, 3, 4. Claws rather than webbed flippers would seem to indicate a dry environment, would they not? Also, the vet wasn't much help. He's more the cats-and-dogs type.
posted by Cobalt at 7:39 PM on July 4, 2011

There seem to be a number of Turtle Rescue organizations around- Why don't you email the pictures & situation to them & see if anyone recognizes it?
posted by Canageek at 8:25 PM on July 5, 2011

Thanks, everyone. The tortoise has healed and was released in the wild. Apparently, it was let out of a cage, turned to look at its releasers, turned to look at the water, turned to the releasers again, and walked very quickly to the pond a disappeared under the surface. Happy days for all.
posted by Cobalt at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2011

« Older Pop art and cinema   |   Salsa Fiddle Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.