Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Rescue, Rehabilitation, Release, Adoption.

This male Red Eared Slider was found on Kell East just west of town, on the side of the highway. He had been struck by a car and his shell was cracked almost identically to the turtle below. He was bleeding pretty badly. Thankfully, all parts of his shell were still present, and after triage and cleaning the wound, I stabilized the fracture and placed him on pain meds and antibiotic. His chances for recovery are excellent if no internal organ damage.
The pictures below show his shell after initial repair. His shell has been temporarily bonded with VetBond dermal adhesive, which is a medical grade of "superglue".

[ Update 12/09]

He has been named Buddy, and he is doing well. He is still a little weak and is not exerting himself much, but he is alert and active as can be expected. He is currently taking antibiotics and pain medication.  


This Cooter turtle was rescued by a good samaritan from a golf course. He was headed toward the road. Upon getting a closer look, it was obvious he was hurt pretty badly. The right front quarter of his carapace had been fractured and was hanging free of the rest of the shell, only connected by the underlying tissue. The bridge between the carapace and plastron was shattered into many pieces. This injury was likely sustained after being hit by a mower or other piece of equipment. The caring lady brought the turtle to a local reptile vet, and they contacted my rescue a few days later.  

After receiving the turtle from the vet, where only initial supportive care was offered, several shards of non-viable bone/shell had to be removed from the wound, and some cut away from the tissue. There was no way to save and reconstruct them. A large portion of the shell was simply missing, and it will have to be reconstructed. The wound was irrigated with chlorhexidine and betadine/saline, then packed with silver sulfadiazine.   

4 wire tie anchors were attached to the carapace across the fracture, using quick set epoxy.

Wire ties were inserted and the shell partially pulled back into place to stabilize it. Only light tension is applied to the fracture seam at this time, as there are underlying wounds that will have to have an opportunity to heal before it can be completely sealed. The turtle has received 2 injections of gentamicin and will be starting a course of oral antibiotics and meloxicam for pain management. This will be a protracted recovery and will be a while before this turtle is healthy enough for release, if there are no serious complications along the way from this wound, like pneumonia or necrosis of the shell/bone and sepsis.

[ 9/09 ]

This boy is a fighter and is continuing to hang in there. After more than a month, he is still alive and just as responsive as the first day he came here. His weight has gone from around 680 grams to over 800 grams, though he is being tube fed and hydrated at this point everyday. He was getting daily subcutaneous injections of Lactated Ringer's solution, but this has now ceased and he is glad for that.There are no signs of infection, but this particular wound in his shell is posing substantial complications for a permanent fix, due to it's irregular nature. His shell still has a hole in it, though it is packed well with sulfadiazine cream which dries to form a barrier.

[ 12/09 ]
He has been named Cooter, and he continues to survive this wound. A permanent fix for the missing section of shell is still needed, but the sulfadiazine is providing a good seal and is also covered by frequently changed gauze dressings. Due to the stress of complete dry docking for this injury and from tube feeding or injection of all fluids, I have begun to offer Cooter shallow warm water soaks. He is allowed to drink first and then betadine is added to the water to disinfect should any water leak into the wound. Afterward, he is left without bandages in order to completely dry, and turned so that any water may exit the wound. He seems to be relived that he is again able to spend some time in the water, and he is staying more hydrated this way. There is an elevated risk for infection of the wound with offering soaks, but we'll manage that as it comes.  

[ 2/2010 ]
I am sad to write that Cooter has died of complications resulting from his wounds.


A reptile enthusiast contacted me about this female Red Eared Slider found on the road. She had been car struck and was bleeding from a fractured carapace. I drove half way to pick her up and triaged her there to make sure she was stable. Most turtles I see after being hit by cars do not make it very long, minutes to hours most times. If they live beyond 24-48hrs. they may have a chance.  
This girl was lucky in that there appeared to be no prolapse of internal organs, was not caughing blood, labored breathing, nor had any head trauma. The shell was also not missing any parts. Many times pieces of the shell are missing, and this makes it most difficult to help them. She does have some injury to the hindquarters which affects her rear limb mobility, but being in the water soon will help her with that and hopefully she will recover from it with no disability.
After repeated irrigation of the wound with alternating saline and chlorhexidine, the shell was then pulled back into place and the fracture sealed. 
She is being treated with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, and will be fostered in a kiddie pool until she is ready to release in several months.  She loves basking outdoors and has been named Sunshine.  
Who could deny this face? Aren't they cute?
[Update 7/09]

I am sad to report that Sunshine, who had excellent chances of living out here life in the wild in just a few short months of recovery, was killed by a predator after carelessly being left outside, unattended, after dark, by a former volunteer. It's so hard to find reliable help.

This is Sweetie, an older female Ornate Box Turtle. Sweetie had some type of palpable mass and swelling within one of her hind legs, which made it impossible for her to withdraw her leg into her shell completely. This condition could have very well cost her a limb, either from the condition itself, or from a predator being able to grab her unprotected leg. This often happens when a raccoon or a dog finds a turtle.


I performed surgery on Sweetie, believing this to likely be an a caseous abscess. It turned out to be some type of non-vascularized tumorous growth. 3 hours later, after carefully incising around blood vessels and muscle tissue, most of the growth was removed. Sweetie had to deal with local anesthetic, but was a very good patient and did not begin to protest until I was suturing her leg. What remains is the excess skin that had grown over the tumor. It may have to be removed as well. She can now tuck her leg back into her shell however.  


It takes a long time for turtles to heal from wounds. Sweetie recently had her sutures removed (couple of months ago actually). Her skin has healed and there is no sign of infection. She is just as active and hungry as always. I am keeping her awake this winter due to the surgery.

[Update 12/2010]

Sweetie continues to do well and shows no signs of complications from the surgery, nor has the tumor returned.


6 of 8 Ornates

[ 6/09 ]

These are 6 of the 8 Ornate box turtles that I received from someone in NY. He saw them in a pet store for sale, knew they were native to Texas and the SW, and wanted to know if I could release them. He did not want to see them sold as pets. Well, not that easy. I don't release anything I don't know the home range it came from, and I have no idea if they even came from Texas. 

They were overnighted down to me, at considerable cost to this guy I am sure. Six of them developed respiratory infections with discharge from the nose and noisy breathing. This was probably a result of the shock or stress from the trip and change in climate. They have been treated with oral Baytril and other maintenance items, and seem to have recovered. They will now either be adopted out to knowledgeable keepers with outdoor enclosures, or they will stay here and go to an outside enclosure.

[ Update 2/10 ]

All 8 of these girls have been adopted by a school teacher in the DFW area where they are living in outdoor pens. Their offspring will be released into the wild.


This girl was named Lucky by the little girl who saved her from the road downtown, near the old foundry. I just so happened to be at the park where he and her brother were about to release Lucky. Admirable, but not exactly always the best course of action ( see the found/relocation page ). I can spot someone with an animal they are about to release or catch from a mile away, and I took Lucky for evaluation and to see if she could be returned to where she was found. The area she was found lacks suitable habitat around. Only a 100 yard strip of it in the median between the two sides of Kell Fwy.  She will likely just get into the street again if returned, so she is here waiting for a determination. Upon observation though, I am not sure lucky was entirely wild. She is far to responsive to me, and very aware that I have the food. I believe that she may have been kept as a pet at some point and may have been lost.

In late 2009, I allowed the girl who rescued Lucky to keep her for a weekend. The girl's father is an instructor pilot with the Dutch air force, stationed here, but they were moving back to the Netherlands in early 2010. They have since moved, but Lois continues to email me from time to time, checking on Lucky...


This male Ornate box turtle was found wandering with an old war wound. His shell, healing after a probable run in with a lawnmower blade, concerned the woman who found him. After evaluating him, it was determined that the uneven shell, while unsightly, poses no threat to his continued well being. Given the size and depth of the injury, he was very lucky to survive in the wild with this wound. He will be released into a safe area where he was found if we are able to speak to the person who brought him in again.

Update: We learned that this docile boy was found in an alley in a residential area. We don't know if he was born around that area in a nearby park, or if he was displaced and wandering in search of a new home; but, we cannot release him back in that area. Even if it was his home range, he would not be safe there, and there's not much for habitat around that doesn't involve a street or a dog in the backyard. We may consider release in a safer undeveloped nearby location, across SW Parkway...but, chances are looking like he will stay here. 

This little male Ornate box turtle was turned over to us by someone who found him wandering in a parking lot. As can be seen, he might have been a recent pet. His shell shows little abrasion, he was clean, and his nails were sharp, instead of slightly worn as would be the case with a wild turtle. He might have been in captivity for a little while. But painting of his shell leaves us a little ticked off at the former keeper, or person who did this. He is called an "Ornate" box turtle for a reason. He already had a pretty decorative shell pattern, as you can see showing under the paint. This paint looks a whole lot like Testors model paint. Such paints could be toxic, could interfere with his thermoregulation and proper shedding, and the paint fumes alone would have been harmful enough to expose this poor turtle too. This was done by an immature and ignorant person.

We will be working to safely remove this paint and show off his naturally pretty shell. When that is done, we will post new pictures of this cute little boy.

[Update 7/09]

Below: This little male turtle is maturing and his coloration is changing a bit, but he is still cute, and looks much better without the man made paint. He has been named Amarillo (Yellow).

This is "Little Girl". Nobody ever came up with a better name. Little Girl was just flatly taken away from someone in 2008, who had taken her from the wild as a baby and neglected her for at least 2 years; rarely feeding her, never giving her UVB exposure, nor regularly cleaning her substrate. She suffered shell deformities known as Metabolic Bone Disorder as a result. She could not even fit into her shell. Her shell was too small for her, and it began to curl upward at the marginal scutes. Since taking over her care and managing her diet, with regular UVB exposure and calcium gluconate supplements, her shell has corrected and grown slightly. Improvement is noticeable this year. She still has some time to grow and improve her shell deformities.


Rain washed this baby Red-Eared Slider down into a storm drain/overflow sump at the local prison, where an employee found him struggling to get out. He took the baby turtle home, where his young daughter of probably 5 years old took care of him for some time. She was happy to turn him over to animal rescuers however, and she was happy for the turtle. We find that many times when the situation is explained to children, they are all for letting the animal be happy and letting it go where it can live long. It is normally the parents who protest and give us grief about taking away something wild that they want to make a pet out of. Frequently, they use the possible hurt feelings of the kids as an excuse for keeping the animal...but just ask the kids about the animal being free, and see what they almost always say.

[Update 2008]

We named this little boy D'Artagnan (he resided with the 3 comet goldfish the "Three-Musketeers"). D'Artagnan grew well until he was old enough to go to the outside habitat, where he later escaped. I hope he found a nearby pond before becoming dehydrated. 



Today I caught one of these fly by night turtle mill vendors. I "confiscated" ( strongly encouraged the voluntary surrender ) 53 Red Eared Slider hatchlings from an Asian vendor at a trade show taking place at the MPEC convention center. We have been keeping tabs on this kind of reptile trafficking in this area for some time, and looking for an opportunity to catch them in the act. These poor turtles were packed in like sardines and the ones on the bottom had no means of fighting to the top of the water in order to breathe, as dozens of other babies were on top of them. If this wasn't inhumane enough, they were being sold indiscriminately to anyone who came along, and the vendor was advising the buyers that they would not get any larger than this. The truth is that if properly cared for, they will live for decades and grow to be the size of the one below. Not only was this vendor committing fraud by deceptive business practices, but he was also in violation of FDA regulations. Title 21 CFR Sec. 1240.62 (b) prohibits the commercial sales to the public and interstate traffic of turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches. Penalty for violation may result in fine of up to $1000 and/or 1 year confinement FOR EACH OFFENSE. With 50+ turtles, he would have faced more than 50 counts. In addition, city ordinances prohibit the sale of animals at any temporary event, and prohibit the sale of animals within 50ft. of any eating or drinking establishment. This vendor was selling turtles within 20ft. of the concession windows.

After revealing the turtles that he had for sale, the vendor was advised that he could surrender the turtles to us to be rehabilitated and released, or we would inform the local PD and county health dept. that he was in violation of federal commerce regulations by offering these turtles in a public venue. He surrendered the turtles. 

In order to discourage this vendor further from ever attempting this again, I would have preferred to make the call and involve the relevant agencies, which could have assessed the fines, however I discovered that this activity was taking place at approximately 5:20pm and the event closed at 6. By the time I got there and located the vendor to verify what he was selling, there was no time to wait for Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. or any other agency to come out on a Sunday afternoon. If they would have even thought the plight of these baby turtles was concerning enough to come at all. More likely, the only thing that would have brought Wichita Falls authorities out WAS the opportunity to write a large fine to somebody. This vendor would not have still been there by the time a game enforcement officer or a health dept. official arrived, if they even decided to act on the information; therefore, I acted to prevent the turtles from leaving the scene with him and being sold elsewhere.

The turtles have been moved to larger suitable accommodations, where they will be reared for a short time while we decide suitable locations where they can be released.    


Over the course of the Summer several of the babies died of illness or managed to escape the enclosure. After finding a few of them missing on occasion, I discovered one of them sitting on top of the chicken wire frame which covered the top of the enclosure and pool. Apparently they were able to reach the screen somehow and climb out, though they would have had to balance on their hind end in order to do it! I have seen box turtles do this, but never a Slider. Last Fall 12 of the largest and healthiest babies were released into a small man made lake in the new residential area near Weeks Park and SW Parkway. 13 remain. One, which is the runt and was born with one eye, will not be released, but adopted out; as he requires assistance with finding his food. The remaining 12 of these will be released this Summer, probably at the same location, or at Sikes Lake.


The remaining babies from this rescue, except 2, were released in the fall of 09. One was held back because he appeared sick, and the other is the runt born with only one eye. He will be a permanent sanctuary case.

[Update 12/10]

The two remaining from this rescue are still here. The one that was ill at the time his siblings were released has done well and grown to typical size for a 2 year old Red Eared Slider. He lives in an outdoor pond with two other Red Eared Sliders his size. The other of the two, who was born with one eye, continues to live here in an indoor aquarium, with several smaller Yellow Bellied Sliders. This little runt is hanging in there, though he is 2 years old and still not the size of a typical one year old.


weight: 4lb 6oz  length: 10"  approx age: 30 yrs

Our first official rescue who was released in 2007. A big female slider that was saved from the middle of Sheppard Access Road just outside SAFB during busy traffic. A couple driving by,stopped to rescue her from the road. She was turned over to us stressed and scared, but thankfully no injuries. She will be released in a restricted area on base where she can enjoy her remaining days without the worries of traffic or loss of habitat due to development.

[Update 7/06/07]

This grand ol' gal was released this afternoon into a secluded area of protected marshlands on SAFB. A special thank you to Shelly with Entomology who helped us get her out there. 

Baby turtles sold at the flea market or fair

There is a scoundrel of a person in our local area who is frequenting the local flea market and apparently the recent fair at the MPEC, who is selling baby Red Eared Slider turtles in small blue plastic tubs, with plastic palm trees. This person is telling prospective buyers that these are "Silver Dollar" turtles, and other such nonsense, and that these turtles will not get any bigger. If you see this person, be forewarned; this is a fly by night snake oil salesman who is just looking to get your money. The pet stores are being over run with people from this past weekend's fair who have received these baby turtles. If the turtles are lucky, the store employees know enough to set these people up with the right equipment and inform them that these are in fact baby slider turtles, which will rapidly grow over the next few years to up to 10 inches in length and weigh several pounds. Even keeping these babies in the plastic tubs provided is insufficient and is cruel, but as grow to adulthood they will need a 100+ gallon tank, or an outdoor pond habitat. Setting them loose is not an option later when they have lived for years in captivity. They are hard to adopt out too, since of course everyone just has to have a cute "baby" something when they are getting a pet. They require space when they get grown up, and nobody wants them then. In fact, the pictures above are of an adult Red Eared Slider next to a baby that is about twice as large as those being sold at the fair. If you buy one, be forewarned also that they will live 20+ years if you are in fact keeping them properly. Your children, or your children's children, may have to care of that baby turtle you buy now.  

WFRR is committed to finding this person and putting them out of business. The commercial sales of turtles with a carapace length of less than 4", to the general public, is prohibited by FDA regulation. This is also an issue of proper care for the turtles, and lack of full disclosure and perhaps fraud on the part of this seller. It is called "Deceptive Business Practice" in the Texas Penal Code, and is therefore also a criminal offense to knowingly sell these turtles to people and claim they will not grow any bigger.  

If you, or someone you know, has bought one of these turtles and were told that it would grow no larger, or something similar: please contact us at Phrynosoma_Texas@yahoo.com  . We would like to catalog your complaint to assist us in putting this person out of business for good.  

This poor male Cooter was found on Hwy 79 after being hit by a car.  He has injuries to his shell to include several cracks, a broken right front leg with serious abrasions, and a possible pre-existing eye infection. Though plenty of turtles get onto this road normally, this eye condition may have contributed to his wandering out into traffic. 

We are treating his injuries and looking toward a long term sanctuary for this sweet boy if he cannot be released safely in the future.


Sadly, this poor turtle died of his injuries about a week afterward.

This is Lucky (the first one). He is a young male Red Eared Slider of about 4-6 years old. We found him while on our way down Kemp next to the Lake Wichita dam one night. With a dark shell on a dark road, we just spotted him on the road in the nick of time and narrowly avoided running over him. I quickly bailed out of the car and ran back 30 or so yards to grab him before the next car arrived. We set him loose the next day at the creek just under the dam. Notice the long nails on the fore limbs. This is characteristic of males, and they are used to swim in front of the female and tickle her face in a mating dance.

Can't adopt? You can Sponsor!

Some of our special needs cases require extensive medical attention and this can get costly. You can help by sponsoring one of these darlings. Your money will go directly toward the medical, food, and housing costs for the turtle you select.  You can name your turtle and will receive photos and regular updates on his or her treatment and progress. If one of these poor babies touches your heart, please consider helping us get him/her the care s/he desperately needs.

For information on how you can become a little turtle's guardian angel, please see our Contact page and email us today.