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Woodland box turtle found with shell painted with nail polish now fighting for its life

Painted Woodland Box turle
Posted at 1:42 PM, Aug 05, 2020

BARBERTON, Ohio — A Woodland box turtle that was found dehydrated and with glitter and nail polish painted on its shell is now on a feeding tube, fighting for its life after someone found it wandering around a neighborhood in poor condition, according to Stark Parks, a rehabilitation center in Stark County.

The turtle was in the care of Stark Parks for about two weeks as rehabilitation specialists worked to bring it back to good health, but it was so emaciated, that it was taken to a vet at the Barberton Veterinary Clinic for 24-hour care.

Woodland box turtle fighting for its life.
Woodland box turtle fighting for its life after it was found malnourished in Stark County.

“When we found it, it was covered in paint and we tried to remove as much as we could. The shell is a living and breathing organ for them so it really affected its health,” said Vanessa Shallower, a wildlife specialist at Stark Parks.

Stark Parks said painting a turtle’s shell is very unhealthy as the shell is critical for the absorption of vitamin D. The inability to get this could lead to bone and growth issues and in serious cases, metabolic bone disease, which is a painful and debilitating condition.

Stark Parks said the turtle was treated cruelly and the condition it was found in indicates it was someone’s pet, something wildlife officials urge the public not to do since woodland box turtles are a species of concern in Ohio due to their decreasing population.

This could be attributed to habitat loss, pet trade and those who choose to keep it in captivity, which is illegal without an education permit.

Shallower calls this an “unfortunate circumstance” as a result of captivity, something she and her fellow colleagues see from time to time as it’s not widely known that taking wildlife out of the wild is illegal.

When asked how she feels to see this happen, she says most of the rehabilitation specialists share the same sentiment that they just want to continue the mission of educating the public about taking turtles out of their habitats, something that used to be a more common practice.

“It’s hard to put an emotion on it because we don’t know if this turtle was treated poorly as it could have been a parent giving it to their child and not trying to be cruel. But because we don’t know if its condition was a result of intentional or unintentional actions, we just have to be disappointed,” said Shallower.

Turtles are attached to their original territories, so when removed they often try to find their way to their original habitat, even if that means crossing roads and other dangerous routes.

As for the turtle rescued by Stark Parks, the staff there said its condition is “touch and go” and it will remain under 24-hour care by Stark Parks and its partner veterinarian.