Florida Softshell Hatchlings Face Many Obstacles

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Four Florida softshell turtles were among the 68 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a common gallinule, a red-bellied woodpecker, a white ibis, two black skimmers, a white-winged dove and a river otter.

Two of the four Florida softshell turtles arrived after being found in swimming pools. One was in a saltwater pool, the other a chlorinated pool. The hatchling turtles were in good condition but required observation to ensure there were no ill effects caused from the high concentration of salt and chlorine. After several days of good nutrition and rehydration in freshwater, the two softshell turtles were released.

A Florida softshell hatchling released after being admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The third and fourth hatchling softshells were found uninjured on the sides of roads in two different locations in Naples. The hatchlings received the same treatment protocol as the “pool” hatchlings and were released after several days of care.

Along with the four softshell turtle admissions, three Florida red-bellied turtles, a gopher tortoise and a peninsula cooter were also admitted last week. Two of the red-bellied turtles and the peninsula cooter were fatally injured after being struck by vehicles. The third red-bellied turtle and the gopher tortoise were also struck by vehicles and are currently receiving care for their injuries.

Summer rains provide water that fills ponds, canals and drainage ditches. Water turtles are more active as they take advantage of the availability of these new water sources.

Many species of turtles laid their eggs in the spring, on dry land, and those eggs are now hatching. Turtles do not provide any parental care to their babies; hatchlings rely on instinct when they emerge from their eggs and seek out appropriate habitat.

Hatchling turtles may encounter many obstacles and require assistance to remove them from harm’s way. If a turtle has encountered a dangerous obstacle such as a swimming pool, a fence, parking lot curb too high to scale, or if you see a turtle attempting to cross the road, safely stop and help the turtle out of harm’s way. Always move the turtle in the direction it was heading. If you are unsure of the appropriate course of action, call the wildlife hospital for guidance. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is open daily from 8am to 8pm.

Recent Releases

A blue jay, four eastern cottontails, a gopher tortoise, eight northern mockingbirds, three mourning doves, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a Virginia opossum, five mottled ducks and a barred owl were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see conservancy.org



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Conservancy of SWFL

Conservancy of SWFL


Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.