Wildlife Rehabilitation - Care for Orphaned or Injured Wild Reptiles

What to do with a baby turtle or snake I found?

I’ve found a Reptile! What now? - If you watched in horror from the sidewalk as someone ran over an unsuspecting turtle, never fear—a turtle with a broken shell can be fixed. And that snake that got sideswiped by the lawn mower? He can be sewn up by a veterinarian. Adult, injured reptiles are common because they are drawn to outdoor heat sources like warm pavement. If you’ve found an injured adult, call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. The sooner the expert gets the injured animal to a medical professional, the better.

What about those babies swimming around or giving me the heebie-jeebies as they curl in a collective pile? Reptiles are very different than mammals. Baby reptiles are not dependent on their mother for nursing, and most are born from eggs with no contact from the parent reptile at all. Snakes are an exception to this generalization. Some snakes, though not all, give birth to live young.

Once the eggs have hatched, reptile babies are on their own. There is no need for your intervention. If the baby is injured, then your wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted.

Some things to consider when taking in a baby reptile: Wild animals are not meant to be pets. If you find a baby turtle or snake, please leave it in its natural environment. Once removed from nature, you will become responsible for temperature control for the reptile, correct nutritional supplementation, and habitat monitoring. There is nothing you can do that Mother Nature cannot. Reptiles are also natural carriers of Salmonella, bacteria that causes illness in humans and other mammals.

To find a reptile rehabber in your area, click on my nationwide directory of wildlife rehabbers or do an online search for one in your area. In the meantime, you can still care for the reptile as advised below.

Injured adults: Injured adult reptiles are seen often by wildlife rehabilitators. The first step in helping an injured reptile is transporting it with as little stress as possible. Snakes are often best served by being carried in a pillow case. Visual stimulation is important to a snake, and the pillow case provides a wiggle-free area that won’t stress the snake out. Turtles, especially those with broken shell, are transported in large tubs. Rehabilitators have special “shell casings” of various sizes that can be fitted over a broken shell to prevent undue movement.

Once at the veterinarian’s, a snake with a laceration will be anesthetized and the wound closed with medical-grade sutures. Recovery time for a snake is similar for that of a mammal. After ten to fourteen days, the incision should be healed and the sutures can be removed.

To repair a turtle shell, a veterinarian applies a complex substance consisting of sterilized fiberglass. Depending on the severity of the shell trauma, pinning and metal plating may be warranted. Healing time for a shell injury is completely dependent on the amount of trauma present, and can take months to years for complete resolution.

Dealing with an injured reptile will inevitably be expensive as veterinary intervention is often needed. If you have called a rehabilitator for an injured reptile, please consider a donation toward the treatment of the injured animal.

Here are some other advice articles for wildlife rehabilitation:
What to do with a baby bat I found?
What to do with a baby deer I found?
What to do with a baby fox I found?
What to do with a baby opossum I found?
What to do with a baby raccoon I found?
What to do with a baby hawk or eagle I found?
What to do with a baby reptile I found?
What to do with a baby mouse or rat I found?
What to do with a baby songbird I found?
What to do with a baby squirrel I found?

Please be kind to wildlife! Our wild animals are intelligent, and believe it or not, they definitely have emotions!
If you have any questions about this wildlife rehabilitation website, just email me at dseeveld@gmail.com