ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – A snapping turtle who was found inside a mall trashcan with a broken jaw has succumbed to her injuries, but not before heroically giving birth to more than four dozen eggs.
Lifting the top of the glass incubator — 51 little embryos wiggle as Veterinarian Lindsay Ruland cradles the eggs, each of which have been numbered.
“Number 17, that’s my egg and it’s usually very cooperative,” Ruland told WWJ’s Kathryn Larson. “They like to run away from the light in the egg. They can sense the heat.”
Still a few weeks from hatching, the story of their mother is a harrowing one.
“She came in on Friday the 13th, June 13,” Ruland said.
Mama Kohl — named affectionately for the storefront she was found in front of — was discovered wiggling frantically inside of a trash can at the Westland Mall.
A concerned citizen stumbled upon the badly injured animal and brought her to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital of Ann Arbor.
“She came in here hissing at us with half her jaw hanging off and it’s like ‘Well, we can’t not try to save her,'” Ruland said.
Mama Kohl was in rough shape. Thirty to 40 percent of her lower jaw was gone and the remainder was fractured and dangling off the front. Eighty percent of her upper jaw was also gone and her nasal passages were obliterated. When doctors performed an X-ray, they learned the situation was even more grave — Mama Kohl was heavily pregnant.
Ruland performed emergency surgery on Mama Kohl and wired her jaw together, placing bone graft material to help the bones heal over. She also induced labor, and Mama Kohl gave birth to 51 eggs.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Ruland said she could see the fight to survive in Mama Kohl’s eyes.
“There were multiple times she could have bitten us. After her jaw was repaired and it was a lot more solid, she could have taken a big chunk out of one of us if she wanted to, but she was very gentle,” she said.
The eggs were placed in a sandy substance inside an 85 degree incubator as Mama Kohl started the healing process. But the stress eventually proved too much for the new mother and Mama Kohl died after a month-long battle on July 14.
“It’s better to have gone through that to try and fix her than to pass away in a trash can,” Ruland said. “She was such a trooper.”
But Mama Kohl’s memory will live on — once her many eggs hatch.
“We’re very excited. It’s been really, quite an experience to watch them grow inside those eggs,” Ruland said.
When the new hatchlings are healthy, Ruland said they will be adopted out to suitable homes, such as those with a pond.
“These are snapping turtles after all, not pets,” she said.
For adoption information, contact Emergency Veterinary Hospital of Ann Arbor at 734-369-6446 or visit www.emergencyvetannarbor.com.