Years after helping treat a badly injured turtle in a feat of medical engineering, an Ohio veterinarian had the unexpected pleasure to reunite with her old patient.
“Several years ago, a client brought me a box turtle that had been hit by a car,” Shannon Moore, owner of Hocking Hills Animal Clinic in Logan, Ohio, wrote on Facebook last week.
“I used fiberglass to repair his broken shell and then released him in my woods. Recently, while walking on my hillside, I spotted an odd pattern in the leaves.”
That odd pattern turned out to be the shell of the very turtle she had helped out years before.
While Moore didn’t keep a record of the exact date when she treated the turtle, it was “at least two years between treating and finding him” and may have been closer to three years, Moore told HuffPost in an email.
Running into the reptile a second time was an amazing feeling. “It filled me with joy,” she said.
In some cases, totally covering a turtle’s shell with fiberglass could be problematic for an animal.
When asked about the incident and Moore’s efforts, Anthony Pilny, a veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in New York City, said that covering most of a turtle’s back could lead to problems because the shell “does need to shed and turn over which might be blocked.”
However, Pilny said that without seeing the turtle’s injuries beforehand, he couldn’t comment on whether Moore ― whose practice primarily treats cats and dogs ― made the right call.
For her part, Moore said she is well aware there were potential issues with the technique, and that she only took the step as a last resort out of concern about a turtle with such comprehensive shell damage.
She called it a “salvage procedure,” noting that “the shell was so badly fractured, that in my opinion, he would not have been able to thrive in the wild without it being stabilized.”
Moore also noted in a Facebook comment that in more typical cases, a vet would repair a turtle’s shell using smaller patches.
She stressed that a layperson should never try to treat an injured wild animal themselves.
“If you find any injured wildlife, take it to a licensed veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitation center for treatment,” she told HuffPost.
Moore also said that a person should generally refrain from trying to relocate a box turtle, since they are “highly territorial” and can have difficulty surviving when moved to new locations.
Nonetheless, she felt in this case she didn’t have much of a choice.
“The option to return this one to its ‘home’ didn’t exist,” she said, explaining that she only knew the general area the turtle came from, and it was picked up on a “heavily traveled road with little natural habitat nearby.”
Luckily, based on her chance encounter, this turtle seems to have made it.
“He has had a life well-lived in the hills of southern Ohio,” Moore said. “All this inspires me to follow in his footsteps.”