CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Have you ever seen a tortoise with braces? One reptile in Charlotte County recently had some emergency orthodontic work... but it wasn't to fix his smile.
An attempt to cross a Punta Gorda street nearly cost a gopher tortoise his life. "It looked like he'd been clipped just by a car," Peace River Wildlife Center Veterinarian Dr. Robin Jenkins said.
Part of the tortoise's shell had been crushed into pieces.
"Every time he moved his leg, the shell would move and rub against his internal organs, very painful for him," Jenkins said.
Jenkins cleaned him, stabilized him, and, "I put a call into Dr. O'Leary, my daughter's Orthodontist."
"Dr. Jenkins called up and said we have a car who met a turtle and the turtle lost," Orthodontist Dr. Kay O'Leary said.
Turns out, acrylic used for retainers also sticks to shells. "It took four of us to to hold the pieces, there were four pieces, to get the pieces all lined back up so we could actually apply some brackets to hold some wires to pull those pieces together," O'Leary said.
It's not the first time Dr. O'Leary has come to the rescue. The reason orthodontics work so well is they add stability and hold the shell together, which speeds up the healing process. They also allow the injury to breathe so bacteria can be washed out more easily.
In honor of the doctor who put him back together, the recovering tortoise now goes by the name O'Leary. Soon he'll be set free, and eventually, O'Leary's "braces" will fall off. "When you're living right next to I-75, that's not a good place for a tortoise, so we'll find him a new place," Jenkins said,
Next time he crosses the street, he might look both ways.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that if you happen to see a turtle or tortoise crossing a road, gently pick him up and carry him across in the direction he was headed.