I live in Wilmington NC, and last week found a very little Yellow Bellied Slider hatchling. I have kept many turtles

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Customer: I live in Wilmington NC, and last week found a very little Yellow Bellied Slider hatchling. I have kept many turtles successfully in the past of all sizes and raised them from young. With the current nightime temps getting down into the low 30's, and as i found him wandering down a road with no visible water course or natural fresh water nearby, i was hestitant to just place him off in the grass on the side of the road. His shell is approx 1.5" diameter, so very little. Anyways...i have been unsucessful in getting him to eat, I've tried dark leafy greens, grapes, fresh shrimp, fresh fish, etc..I'm worried to drp him off down the local lake where turtles abound in sumer...and as mentioned, the temps being so low...that they are not active at all now. Subsequently I don't want him to slowly starve...any ideas?
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about the Slider?
Customer: just whether I shoulkd release him back into the wild and let him take his chances with the cold temps...or continue to house him and try to get some food into him?
Answered by Anna in 2 hours 4 years ago
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Anna
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17,040 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** i’m A biologist with over 20 years of experience keeping reptiles. I’ll be glad to help you. You’re right that it’s probably too cold to release this baby now. Will you tell me more about how you’re housing him?What types of lighting and heating equipment do you have?What temperatures do you maintain under the basking light and in the water?Thank you.
Customer
Hi Anne,Right now i have a UVB lamp and the water temp is 74, Ambient house temp is 74 and on the basking area i read about 78-80˚F.He seems very sleepy and non-moving, but comes alive when i handle him (limited times), and clear eyes, no nose bubbles, or crust...just not interested in any offering of food i put before him?I've force fed small birds before by way of gentle insertion of syringe and bird fornula etc...but this little guys mouth is so tiny...that I don't even know how to co0erce a reptile mouth open.All my "rescued" sliders in the past have eaten after a day or two of arrival...and typically lunge at the food when offered on a long bamboo skewer.I'm at a loss to try next...Greg.
Thank you for getting back to me, Greg. I'm working on some information for you now, will post it as soon as I have it typed up. I appreciate your patience.
Thank you for waiting. I wouldn't try force- feeding one so tiny. That would very likely result in aspiration into the lungs, and death from pneumonia. It's possible he hatched very late. When newly hatched, they don't eat for some time because they live off the remains of the yolk sac.What I would do is adjust the temperatures. In recent years, the way we care for turtles has changed a lot because we have learned more about what they need. Optimal water temperature is 78*F to 82*F. That can be maintained with a submersible aquarium heater. The basking area should be 85*F to 90*F. Be sure to make the increase gradual.Many times, increasing the temperature is all that is needed to stimulate appetite. If that doesn't help, and this baby becomes active, he may simply not be ready to eat yet. If he remains lethargic except when you handle him, he is probably sick. Respiratory infections are common, and can result in theses symptoms, often along with repeated yawning and/or bubbles from the nose or mouth. In that case, a reptile vet can help.
If you end up needing a vet, this site has a directory of them:http://www.anapsid.org/vets/index.html#vetlistAn alternative would be to turn the turtle over to a wildly fe rehabilitator.
I’m also including a care sheet I’ve written for slider turtles. You can use the care sheet as a checklist to make sure everything is right according to the latest research. If you have more questions, let me know. I hope the baby will be fine.AnnaSLIDER TURTLE CARE SHEETWell-cared for sliders can live 30 years or more.The TankIt's recommended that a baby slider have at least a 15 gallon tank. By the time the turtle is 3-4 years old, it will need a 60 gallon tank, so it's best to get the biggest you can in the beginning. You can also use a large RubberMaid tote. That's not as pretty as a tank, but costs a lot less. Set up the tank so there's a land area and a water area. Put the basking light at one end so the whole tank doesn’t get too hot. You want the water to be about twice as deep as the turtle is long. If the turtle is two inches long, you'll want four inches of water.Temperatures and Basking AreaTurtles need certain types of lighting and need to be warm. Air and water that are not warm enough can lead to fungal and respiratory infections and unhealthy shells. Turtles must have a basking area where they can get out of the water, dry off, and bask in very warm light. The ambient air temperature in the tank should be around 75 *F (24*C) , with the basking area warmer still. Over the basking area there should be some sort of lamp that will take a 40-60 watt incandescent bulb (or you can buy a ceramic light fixture made just for reptiles). If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware stores sell similar fixtures as work lights. The basking area should be kept at 85-90*F (29 to 32*C). Use a digital probe thermometer to be sure. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light fixture.The lights that come with the covers on aquariums are not suitable for turtles. You'll also need a submersible aquarium heater that will keep the water 78-82*F (26 to 28*C).UVB LightIt's extremely important that you buy an additional light that produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself. Full-spectrum, DayGlo, SunGlo, UV, or UVA are not the same thing. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to your turtle's health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because your turtle won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death.UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out most of the rays turtles need to stay healthy. To prevent MBD, turtles also need calcium. The easiest way to provide it is to place a cuttlebone in the tank. Cuttlebones are sold in bird departments of pet stores.FiltrationTurtles are very sensitive to water quality. Even if you change the water every day, it can still contain harmful chemicals. A good filtration system is essential. Water changes are also needed even with a filter. If the tank is too small, no filter can keep up with the amount of waste that turtles produce.FeedingFeeding is an area where pet stores often give out bad information. Commercial food should make up only 1/4 of the diet. Animal products (cooked meat, earthworms, canned cat food) should make up another 1/4. The remaining half should be plant foods (dark lettuce like romaine, bits of strawberry or melon, etc.). Hatchlings should be fed every day. Older turtles should be fed 3 times per week. Overfeeding can lead to gout and kidney failure.For Further ReadingThis is among the most reputable sites on turtles.http://www.austinsturtlepage.com/Care/caresheet-red_ear_slider.htmhttp://www.austinsturtlepage.com/Care/cs-yellowbelly.htm
Customer
Hi Anna,Thanks for the info. We did have unsually warm weather here late into October / early November. He still has the little sharp protrusion on his nose area (i assume to help break out of the egg shell??). So I again assume a very late hatchling.I will work at slowly increasing both water temp and Basking temp...I just didn't know if there was some normnal seasonal slowdown that is hard wired into the turtles from birth. And if this was attributing to the lack of interest in food. How long could a hatchling survive without any protein?I'm going to try mushing up some meal or blood worms next.Do you think offering food on the long skewer is the way to go...or just placing the food in an obvious place for him to see it.How much does smell play in a turtles desire to eat?Thanks for all the other info...I will study up on that again as well.Still with no nose bubbles, or other external signs of illness or injury...l just worry about the duration and how long he could go without eating before it starts a downward spiral?Thanks,Greg.
You're welcome, Greg. A newly- hatched turtle can go for about a month without eating. You are dealing with a touchy situation, though. You're right about the protrusion on his nose, and that does tell us he recently hatched. But usually when they hatch this late, they go straight into hibernation without even leaving the nest. They don't need to eat during or before hibernation under those circumstances. When they come out and start wandering around, everything changes. No one has studied that behavior. Perhaps youngsters that do that remain active for a month, eat a little, then hibernate. Perhaps they simply don't survive. Young wild turtles don't have a high survival rate to begin with. I suspect if you release the turtle, he doesn't have a very good chance.I woukd increase the temps, and see what happens. If he becomes more active after 24 hours of warmth, go ahead and try feeding him again. Turtles are triggered to eat by sight more than anything else. Your skewer method or putting a wriggling earthworm in the water would both be good methods to try.All you can do is try. It's very kind of you to do that.Anna
Customer
Hi Anna,I can't stand by and let any living creature suffer if i can help in any way.Our (human) encroachment of their habitats and the endless road-kill that litters the highways and roads is heartbreaking enough.You mentioned hibernation...he does tend to want to be inside the little aquarium house (temple) that has two openings but shaded from the overhead lamp. I was wondering if a new hatchling would hibernate fully, or remain somewhere between active and fully asleep. If he IS trying to hibernate, then i worry my "waking him up" to try and feed him, or rousing him from the little shelter he seeks is also using up his dwindling energy reserves...and maybe i should just let him be in-active?If he is trying to hibernate...how long would that typically last in the wild and with a hatchling / egg yolk scenario...would they wake during hibernation to eat...of just go until the spring / warmer weather?Then i also worry about hydration, and if turtles need moist, living vegetation to borrow into?Do they prefer a moist or dry "bedding"?I understand they are touch and go at such a young age, but I have had much success in the past raising both hatchlings and older sliders. They and Green Tree frogs are my favorite animals.I will keep trying to feed when i see him active...but if he is trying to sleep or be in the shelter...should i just leave him be?Trying to be a good trutle dad :)Thanks,Greg.
I think you are definitely a good turtle dad, no matter what. When late hatchlings hibernate in the wild, they don't eat at all until spring. It's important that they immediately go to hibernation so they can survive on the yolk sac. Older turtles, including earlier hatchlings, feed well throughout the summer and early fall, building up fat reserves to survive the winter. As we move into late fall, they stop eating. If a turtle goes into hibernation with food in its digestive system, that food will rot, leading to a systemic infection. That turtle will die before spring, never emerging from hibernation.They usually hibernate in mud. Temps have to be just right for successful hibernation. Instinct enables them to bury themselves at the right depth for that to happen. Temps that are not cold enough result in a lethargic state that isn't true hibernation. The turtle will be inactive and have no appetite. But because their metabolism hasn't slowed enough, they will slowly starve to death. Even if they occasionally eat in this state, illness usually takes them. It's nearly impossible to provide proper hibernation conditions in our homes. That's why it is usually recommended to keep our pets warm, and with 12 to 14 hours of light through the winter.I'll look for an article or two for you on the subject. I'll be back with that.
Here are two articles you may find interesting. The second one refers to painted turtles, but the same information applies to sliders.http://www.redearslider.com/hibernation.htmlhttp://archive-srel.uga.edu/outreach/ecoviews/ecoview090215.htm
Customer
Ok...so that is good information, but also sad to think the little guy may be in the "dead-zone" or been disturbed from the nest and now be in between an overwintering state and normal warm-weather induced activity.I think (with the added temps) i will keep an eye on him, and if active and moving around is noticed...keep the varied food offerings comming. I am concerned about the partial eating, then the semi-hibernating and food digestion problems.I guess mother nature has her way and if the little guy shows signs of increased activity, great. If not and he displays a willingness to just "sleep" in the covered shelter...then NOT try to rouse him and try offering food.I guess if he is hungry from an increased habitat temp, and displays more activity...then hopefully he will take to the food...if not he may sleep and we'll see what happens.Unless, you think there is another course of action i should persue?Thank you so much for your info and thoughts on the matter.At least we've tried out best to give him the best chance for survival.Thank you Anna,Greg.
You’re welcome, Greg. I think you have as good of a plan as possible under difficult circumstances. I hope this baby will come around and thrive for you.Anna
Customer
Hi Anna,So over the weekend the little guy actually showed interest in the food on offer...A combination of mashed up store bought aquatic turtle pellets, meal worms, dried shrimp, beta-bites (because my Beta fish is hooked on them), cooked chicken breast...all mushed together with a little water into a soft paste. He still sleeps alot, but whenever i see him wandering around...i make sure there is some ready food offerings.Hopefully that will give him some more energy and keep him moving in the right direction.Thanks again for your help and advice.Greg.
Hi Greg,That's a very nutritious mix you've made for him. I'm glad to hear you're getting him to eat some. I wish there were more that could be done for him, but I think you're doing all that's possible. I hope your dedication to helping him will pay off.Thank you for the update.Anna
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