Many keepers will inadvertently have a missing turtle. RES can escape from their enclosures or ponds and while this is preventable, it does even happen to those with well-secured habitats as well. The most common occurrence of a lost RES takes place when the turtle is able to climb out of its enclosure. While we highly recommend people filling their tanks with as much water as possible, we also caution that they need to make sure that their turtle cannot climb out and that all electrical fixtures are well secured. Basking areas and filters are often the point of exit and climbing on another turtle may also assist an escapee. Most RES are kept in tanks that lack any hood or barrier.
- Close doors, set up barriers and restrain any large pets (e.g., cat, dogs). Search from room to room and area to area and suspect that they may have fallen down stairs. They do recognize doors as entry and exit points. They are easy to overlook, do not assume that they will not be in a room you have already searched.
- Look under and behind everything. They can often squeeze horizontally or vertically into crevices and under furniture. Look in tight areas such as between a dresser and the wall. You can be certain they are not somewhere only if you check. If possible, clear the floor as best as you can by stacking your belongings onto chairs and tables to provide you with the clearest possible view of the floor.
- Listen for movement. If you have a hard floor, you may be able to hear your turtle crawl around. If your turtle is between furniture or in a tight spot, you may also hear faint scratching sounds. Listening for sounds is particularly effective if your turtle is missing a short while and in your general area.
- Your turtle may survive about a week or two in ideal conditions. However, it is also possible that your turtle was injured in the fall and may have restricted movement. Leave a shallow bowl of water with food (a smelly food like tuna may be more effective) incase your turtle comes across it. It may also be used as an indicator for any recent movement.
- Do not underestimate their ability to stay hidden and the size of your turtle will determine the difficulty of the task. Continue to search for your turtle and expect it to be more active during the day and to sleep at night.
There is no reason why a turtle wouldn’t try to leave a small captive pond. Sufficient fences or barriers are needed for ponds to prevent escape and to keep out predators. RES can certainly scale a fence that is too short or even dig under one. An outdoor above ground enclosure is similar to an indoor tank as it may also lack the appropriate barrier or screen. While it can be beneficial to let your RES roam around the yard, they can seemingly disappear even under supervision. A secured fence needs to be in place or they should receive constant supervision. They easily blend into their surroundings and are capable of burying themselves thus making them difficult to locate.
- If possible, set up additional barriers and restrain any large pets (e.g., cat, dogs). There is no specific pattern a RES may take while exploring, though check along the perimeter, along walls and under anything that may provide cover (e.g., bushes, leaves, rocks).
- They are very easy to overlook outdoors but you need to look under and behind everything. They can often squeeze horizontally or vertically into crevices and unusually tight places.
- If you have a nearby water source, such as a stream, then follow along it and inspect any potential basking areas. If there is a pond nearby, stand close and peer into it. A previously captive RES will not shy away from people.
- Listen and look for movement. A leafy ground, tall grass and plants may offer signals if your turtle is moving in that area.
- Your turtle may survive about a week or two in ideal conditions. However, it is also possible that your turtle may have sustained injuries and has restricted movement. Leave a shallow bowl of water with food (a smelly food like tuna may be more effective) incase your turtle comes across it. It may also be used as an indicator for any recent movement, though it may not be your turtle that consumes it.
- Do not underestimate their ability to stay hidden and the size of your turtle will determine the difficulty of the task. They move faster and further than you might believe, though can very well be nearby. Continue to search for your turtle and expect it to be more active during the day and to sleep at night.
- Ask neighbors, especially children. They often spend more time outside and might have noticed something out of place or unusual. If possible, check neighbor’s ponds as well.
- If you have found your turtle, it is very important to check for any cracks on the shell and for any other injuries. Broken bones, bruises and cuts are easy to incur during a fall. If you have a pet such as dog, it is also possible that your turtle has additional injuries and trauma. If there is bleeding through the shell, then take your turtle to the vet immediately. If you suspect any broken bones or find areas of sensitivity, then take your turtle to the vet.
- Use clean water to let your turtle soak and to help remove dirt and dust that may have accumulated.
- If your turtle is injury free, do not overfeed it to compensate for missing meals.
- For sliders missing a few days, help rehydrate it by a soaking in Pedialyte, found in most pharmacies or reluctantly a solution of 50% Gatorade and 50% water. Make sure the mixture is around 75-80F degrees.
- Invest the time to put together a secured screen or protective barrier.