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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Turtle Time

Monday, April 4 2016

kindergartners looking at a box turtle

Did you know there are 327 species of turtles in the world? Did you know that 17 turtle species live in Oklahoma?

On March 28, 2016, one kindergarten class in a Stillwater elementary school had the pleasure of learning about turtles in general and more specifically about two box turtles that had been under the care of OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital.

Just 1 and 1/2 weeks before, a Good Samaritan brought two young box turtles to the hospital. According to Dr. Joao Brandao, clinical assistant professor of the hospital’s avian, exotic, and zoo medicine service, the turtles were healthy and probably just came out of hibernation. Brandao’s team cared for the turtles until the weather improved and it was time to release them back to the wild.

Before physically releasing the turtles, Brandao took a small team with the turtles to Mrs. Mitchell’s kindergarten class at Westwood Elementary School. The veterinary team used this opportunity to share information about turtles in general and more specifically information about these two turtles.

The 17 species of turtles living in Oklahoma include:

  • Pond turtles (red-eared sliders, 2 painted turtles species, chicken turtle, 3 map turtles species)
  • Mud/musk turtles (yellow mud turtle, Mississippi mud turtle, skinkpot turtle)
  • Snapping turtles (common and alligator snapping turtles)
  • Softshelled turtles (smooth and spiny softshelled turtles)
  • Box turtles (three-toed and ornate box turtle)

One box turtle is a three-toed box turtle while the other one is an ornate box turtle. Fourth year veterinary student Ava Lemme explained the differences in the two box turtles and answered questions. The students then enjoyed an up-close look at the two turtles before Brandao and his team set them free.