Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

By: Monika Liszka, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2022

In 2018, the Wildlife Medical Clinic cared for 33 turtles, including Eastern box turtles, red-eared sliders, painted turtles, Northern map turtles, river cooters, and snapping turtles. As the spring weather brings warmer temperatures, the Wildlife Medical Clinic sees a noticeable increase in turtle patients. This isn’t surprising, as these animals had been bromating (hibernating) throughout the colder months and are now becoming active again. Unfortunately, many of these patients arrive at the Clinic injured after being hit by a car. You might think to yourself, why would a turtle leave a nice pond and try to cross a busy street? Continue reading

Conservation Corner – University of Illinois “Turtle Team”

By: Kathleen Rafferty, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2021

 “Saving the world, one box turtle at a time” – it’s a well-known phrase for the University of Illinois Wildlife Epidemiology Lab. The Lab conducts the largest Eastern box turtle health assessment and research project in the world, all with the help of John Rucker’s seven Boykin spaniels that love to sniff out and retrieve turtles. Dr. Matt Allender, zoo veterinarian and head of the Wildlife Epidemiology Lab, met John 12 years ago when he learned about his dogs’ special talent – and asked if he could help him accomplish something huge.

Illinois veterinary students have the unique opportunity to volunteer for the Lab’s aptly named “Turtle Team” during weeks throughout the summer. The mornings begin early with tent and lab station set up and preparing for sample collection. When John’s trailer arrives, you can hear the dogs whine in excitement, knowing they are about to do their favorite job. Mr. Rucker attributes this excitement to the turtle dogs being the “super dogs” of the litter – “that’s why they have this degree of excitement, passion, and drive. It plays out in the field when you have a low density of turtles – they have to have that relentless drive.” Continue reading

Little Garter Snake with a Big Problem

Student Blog by Yvonne Wong, VM 21

In November, a juvenile Common Garter Snake presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic. The little snake, just 30 grams or around 1 ounce, was found in a basement! It is not uncommon for reptiles to find shelter in residential homes during the winter months, but this choice is not always supported by the human inhabitants.

Patient on initial intake

Upon intake, multiple small skin lesions (abnormalities) were found along the snake’s body. Otherwise, the patient appeared to be healthy.

Based on the physical exam findings, clinic members were immediately concerned about one particular disease – Snake Fungal disease (SFD), an infection caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophidiiocola.

This relatively newly-discovered fungal pathogen (first seen in 2006) is highly contagious, and potentially fatal, to numerous snake species (including garter snakes).

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