Wildlife officials tell Collier drivers to slow down after tortoise found hit by car

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Rescuers transported a severely injured gopher tortoise for emergency treatment after a car struck it, shattering its shell in Collier County. Now, wildlife officials are pleading with SWFL drivers to slow down and watch for animals crossing the road.

“The first thought was ooo this one looks bad,” said Joanna Fitzgerald, director at the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

She says the injured tortoise is extremely lucky to be alive after the trauma it endured.

“This one had significant damage to the shell, the internal organs. The main issue was the fracture and insuring that the internal organs were still viable if we were able to help the tortoise,” Fitzgerald said.

She says the tortoise was struck by a car on Barefoot Beach Boulevard, and was found by a ranger with its intestines exposed.

Fitzgerald’s team performed extensive surgery before putting the shell back together.

“With this situation, we were able to line the fracture sites up so that will heal as long as we can keep that stable,” she said.

But she adds that the tortoise would never have survived if it wasn’t brought to the hospital.

Experts say if you see an injured turtle or tortoise on the side of the road, safely pull over, place the animal in a box and take it to the nearest animal hospital.

“Don’t just assume it’s going to die or is dead because a lot of times when you pass the turtle on the side of the road, they aren’t dead yet even if the shell fracture’s horrific,” Fitzgerald said.

She also wants SWFL drivers to slow down and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

“On my way in today, I saw one that was about a foot from the road and I’m always very careful to make sure I’m going slow enough speed to watch out for them,” said Naples driver Matt Kearney.

“You just need to remember where you are and there are living creatures trying to move across the road,” Fitzgerald added.

Experts say you should also check underneath your car before backing up.

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