Multiple gravid softshell turtles admitted to the wildlife hospital due to vehicle strikes

March 30, 2024

A Florida softshell turtle was among the eighty-nine animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a crested caracara, a barred owl, a red-bellied woodpecker, a black-crowned night-heron, a big brown bat and gopher tortoise.

The Florida softshell turtle was one of three gravid female softshell turtles injured after being struck by vehicles.

A radiograph of a Florida softshell turtle shows she was gravid carrying twenty-seven eggs. The turtle was struck by a vehicle and did not survive her injuries.

A motorist stopped to help after seeing the turtle on the side of the road (the posted speed limit was 30 miles per hour). The turtle’s carapace (top shell) was bloody and the entire length of her body directly over her spine was fractured. She was dull when handled and not using any of her limbs. A radiograph showed she was gravid and carrying twenty-four eggs.

Humane euthanasia was the only option due to the severity of her injuries. That one car strike killed 25 turtles. 

Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The second softshell turtle admitted weighed 20 pounds and was struck on Airport Road. She suffered significant internal injuries, a laceration to her head and a fractured carapace and plastron. Humane euthanasia was our only option. She was carrying twenty-seven eggs.

The third softshell turtle, admitted within an hour of the second softshell, weighed in at just under 25 pounds. She was struck in a residential area with a 30 miles per hour speed limit. This beautiful creature was absolutely crushed and again, humane euthanasia was our only option. She was carrying thirty-four eggs.

All three turtles were nearly 3 feet in length and 2 feet wide. It is hard to believe the two motorists traveling through the residential gated communities at 30 miles an hour did not see these turtles in the road. Not only did they hit the turtles, but they didn’t stop to offer any help resulting in leaving the turtles on the side of the road to slowly die from their injuries.

These three admissions resulted in 88 turtles losing their lives. It’s a sobering thought considering there are countless turtles hit by vehicles every day in Collier County.

Later in the week, a high school student called a staff member at the wildlife hospital seeking help. She had just rescued a large softshell turtle attempting to cross Goodlette-Frank Road. The young lady didn’t know where to move the turtle because she was surrounded by businesses.

Hospital staff suggested a nearby pond that would allow the turtle to take shelter in the water and was off the main road if she needed to come back on land to lay her eggs.

The student texted a video of the softshell turtle heading into the water. The caption with the video stated: “My turtle, she’s very important.” This video brought us joy knowing the turtle was most likely gravid. Hospital staff was grateful knowing her story didn’t end tragically like the other three turtles admitted earlier in the week.

Softshell turtle rescued off Goodlette-Frank Rd by high school student

Traversing busy roadways is very hazardous for all wildlife, but specifically for turtles. They tend to be slow moving, especially when gravid. Wildlife habitats are incredibly fragmented forcing many animals to cross roads as they search for food, water, and nesting sites. People can reduce the chance of hitting animals by being more attentive when driving. Driving at a slower speed, especially at dawn and dusk when many species of wildlife are most active may provide the reaction time needed to avoid hitting an animal.  

If you encounter a turtle attempting to cross the road, please safely pull over and offer assistance if possible. If the turtle is uninjured, place it out of danger in the direction it was headed. Never put a tortoise or turtle directly in a lake or pond. Instead, place it near the edge of the water. Turtles are often misidentified and a land tortoise may drown if put in the water. 

If the turtle is injured, please bring it to the wildlife hospital for immediate medical assistance. When picking up a turtle, cover its head and body with a towel or t-shirt. The turtle will not like the feel of the cloth touching its body and will be more likely to tuck its head and legs into its shell making handling easier. Always call the staff at the wildlife hospital for guidance if you have any questions at 239-262-2273.

Recent Releases

A big brown bat, a gray catbird, three northern mockingbirds, an eastern cottontail, a royal tern, and two grey squirrels were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about volunteer opportunities at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Many of our seasonal volunteers will be heading north soon and the hospital is entering our busiest time of year with spring and summer baby season. If you can give four hours a week, become a volunteer. Go to our website and fill out our volunteer application. We desperately need your help.

If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. 

Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see