The is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of an animal abuser who hammered a 3-inch nail through the shell of an Eastern box turtle.
The male turtle, which was discovered in Noyac on Tuesday, is in recovery at the rescue center in Hampton Bays after surgery to remove the nail. An x-ray revealed the nail missed the turtle's spine and vital organs, though it is on painkillers and antibiotics and is not out of the woods yet.
Noyac resident Patty Burns was in her backyard Tuesday morning walking her dog when she ran into the turtle, a familiar denizen of her property, but during this encounter she noticed something was amiss.
"I thought I saw something on his shell and I looked again," she recalled Friday. "I thought, 'It couldn’t be a nail.'"
Not having her glasses on, she called her 12-year-old daughter outside to have a look. Her daughter, Arlena, confirmed it: There was a nail in the top of the turtle's shell.
Arlena said the nail went straight through and came out of the turtle's stomach. "Immediately we knew to call an animal rescue center,” she said.
The Burnses brought the turtle to the Wildlife Rescue Center, where it was determined the turtle would need an x-ray and veterinarian. Volunteer Bethany Groff of Hampton Bays rushed the turtle to Jonathan Turetsky, DVM, at the .
Rescue center administrator Virginia Frati said Dr. Turetsky did extensive surgery on the turtle and covered the entry and exit wounds with dental acrylic to keep out infection.
The rescue center kept the nail, which is covered in rust. It is unclear how long the turtle has been living with the nail in its shell, and Groff said it might have already been rusty when it was hammered into the turtle.
Burns said that, prior to Tuesday, she last saw the turtle on Memorial Day weekend, when it crawled onto her pool cover and she had to rescue it with a net, and the shell was intact then.
Groff said the Eastern box turtle's estimated home range is only about the size of a football field, so the turtle was likely attacked near where it was found.
"You hope it's not someone you who know because it's something so horrible," Arlena said.
The rescue center is currently housing numerous turtles, most of which were hit by cars or a lawnmower accidentally, according to Groff.
But in this instance, it was obviously a malicious act.
"They knew what they were doing, which is the sick part," Groff said.