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Minnesota turtle gets a CT scan, which may return him to the wild

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This turtle with a lopsided shell will get a CT scan at BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – A 17-pound snapping turtle with an unusually lopsided shell will get a CT scan at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital on Wednesday, in hopes of unraveling a mystery.

The detailed images may help experts from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota answer a question:  Why wasn’t this turtle settled in properly for winter?

The snapping turtle should have been at the bottom of a pond at this time of year, in a hibernation-like state called brumation. Instead, he was found on top of the ice.

At BluePearl on Wednesday, Dr. Jenifer Myers will supervise as the CT scanner is used to make 3-D images of the turtle’s lungs and possibly other internal organs. It’s the same type of machine used for diagnostic images in human medicine. At BluePearl, the machine often helps veterinarians examine tumors in dogs and cats, and diagnose other diseases.

“These scans will let us look beneath the shell and inside the turtle’s body. It’s a lot like the work every day to diagnose illnesses in dogs, cats and other pets,” Myers said.

This mystery began Dec. 22, when the turtle was found atop a pond in Lamplighter Park, in St. Louis Park, Minn. He had an obvious lopsided shell. He was brought to the wildlife center.

Addie Evans, clinic manager for the wildlife rehabilitation center, said the center hopes to return the turtle to the wild. But several questions came up: Was something preventing the turtle from swimming to the bottom of the pond? If so, could it be related to his lopsided shell?

The new images will provide important clues, because the center does not release animals to the wild unless they are healthy enough to survive in the environment.  “We hope to figure out what actually caused him to go on top of the ice, whether it was because of a previous injury or internal issue, or it was because of the mild winter,” Evans said.

BluePearl welcomes the opportunity to work with the wildlife center to help this patient. It’s not too different from the work BluePearl veterinarians do every day as they diagnose and treat other animals, most commonly dogs and cats. BluePearl’s hospitals in Eden Prairie and Blaine are home to expert veterinarians in several areas including dentistry, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, surgery and others.

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota