Paul and Diane Tuttle of Peoria, Illinois, never expected to make such a gruesome discovery right outside their home. But there she was, an alligator snapping turtle, with a yellow screwdriver impaled into her shell, suffering with each slow step she took.
Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the turtle, named Tuttle after her compassionate rescuers, had been stabbed through her shell and body as well as in her head. She was covered in maggots and blood. In spite of her devastating injuries, Tuttle kept moving, refusing to give up her hold on life.
Paul Tuttle, a police officer, was appalled by the turtle's injuries. “I don’t know why you’d do this,” said Tuttle. "Was it kids being mean and they’ll grow up to become serial killers? Was it someone being drunk and stupid? I don’t know.”
The Tuttles were fearful of removing the screwdriver and causing further injury to the turtle, so they decided to scoop her up, take her to their home, and call for help.
When Paul Tuttle picked up the turtle from behind, afraid he might get snapped at, the turtle didn't react. The Tuttles believed that the turtle knew they were trying to help her. “It never snapped at us,” Tuttle said. “It was calm.”
The Peoria County Animal Protection Services arrived at the Tuttle home to examine Tuttle the turtle. Bridget Domenighini, the director of PCAPS, confirmed that the screwdriver punctured the shell and the turtle's skin near her head. “I don’t know if turtles have shoulders, but that’s where it was hurt,” Domenighini said. “It was bleeding, and it would squirm whenever the screwdriver was touched. It definitely was in pain.”
Tuttle was transferred to the All Pets Vet Clinic for immediate medical care Upon examination, the vets determined she was blind in one eye due to her fractured skull, and her internal injuries were extensive. They removed the screwdriver, plugged the hole with fiberglass, and arranged for Tuttle to stay with Douglas Holmes, a herpetologist from the Peoria Zoo.
Douglas agreed to keep Tuttle with him throughout the winter so she could recover in a safe environment. She healed so well that nine months after the Tuttles rescued her, the turtle was released into a remote marshland area. Douglas had determined that the turtle was somewhere between 65 - 75 years old.
His time rehabbing Tuttle was time well spent, in Douglas' opinion. "Animals deserve that chance. It always feels good when you see an animal go free," he said.
Challenges lie ahead for Tuttle. If she loses eyesight in her one good eye, she will probably die. But our belief is that Tuttle will do just fine. She's one tough old girl who despite the obstacles in her way will keep on walking on.
Unfortunately, Tuttle's attacker was never found, but the good news is that many kind-hearted, caring people stepped up to assist her in her darkest hour. Share Tuttle's amazing rescue and recovery with your friends and family on Facebook.