What To Do If You Found a Sick or Injured Turtle

About Turtles in MA

Two turtles

Turtles are active from late spring to early fall in Massachusetts. During this time, Tufts Wildlife Clinic receives many turtles that have suffered injuries such as fractures of the shell or limbs while crossing roads. Turtles also suffer bites from dogs. Aquatic turtles sustain injuries from fishing gear, such as hooks and line.

Identifying Turtles

Information on identifying turtles can be found in the links below. Be aware that 6 out of 10 of the turtle species in Massachusetts are protected under Massachusetts state law. While it is not lawful for the general public to possess these turtles, you can transport the turtle for veterinary care as soon as possible.

Materials to Gather

  • Find a container big enough to hold the turtle and poke holes in the lid (before putting the turtle inside)
  • A moist towel to place in the bottom of the container

Capturing the Turtle

  • Small to medium sized turtles can be gently lifted and placed in a box or container with the top covered.
  • Even small turtles may sometimes try to bite when they feel threatened. It’s best to avoid placing your fingers near the turtle’s head.
  • A moist towel can be placed on the bottom of the box.
  • If you notice that the shell is broken, it is best not to manipulate the shell pieces. The turtle’s shell is bone, and like any other broken bone, shell fractures cause pain. In these cases, a small box or container can help prevent the turtle from moving around.
  • It is not necessary to offer the turtle food, and it is best not to try to treat any injuries you observe.


If you cannot transport the turtle to Tufts Wildlife Clinic immediately or if the Clinic is not open, keep the turtle in a warm, quiet place in the tightly sealed container until you are able to bring it to the Clinic.

For further assistance on Transport, please refer to the "Who to Call for Help" section on this page.

During transport, keep the turtle in the box or crate, keep the car quiet (radio off).