Freshman ReElle Snyder came across an injured turtle at the University of New Mexico Duck Pond on Aug. 27 who had a mangled hind leg that was actively bleeding. This wound, which was caused by an animal bite, eventually led to his death, and sparked questions about how the wildlife on campus is being taken care of.
When Snyder found the turtle during a class scavenger hunt, the red-eared slider affectionately named ‘Ed’ continued suffering while she struggled to quickly find someone on campus who could provide care. Two hours after calling Bernalillo County Animal Services, an animal control officer arrived and carried Ed away in his makeshift home, a cardboard box.
UNM’s Animal Resource Facility was ready to respond to the call for help as well, but animal control happened to get there first. Animal Resource Facility director Tara Ooms said that, as a veterinarian, she’s licensed to work on all animals but doesn’t typically work with wildlife.
“In general, we try to respond to any animal concern on any campus for the University of New Mexico,” Ooms said.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, the injuries that Ed sustained were too severe for him to survive. After animal control dropped him off at the Eastside Animal Shelter, he underwent surgery to amputate his hind leg but died the next day in the kennel, according to East Side Animal Shelter vet assistant Felicia Hol.
At the Duck Pond, Snyder said she saw numerous instances of off-leash dogs running into the water, lunging at the ducks and generally disturbing the wildlife, all while their owners looked on with indifference. Snyder surmised that a dog had bit the turtle’s leg, and Hol confirmed that the bite was from an animal.
"We have wildlife on campus and we don't know how to take care of them, like how the veterinarian on call (at UNM’s Animal Resource Facility) had no clue how to deal with a turtle even though we brought the turtles into this man-made pond,” Snyder said.
Another issue that Snyder noticed while waiting with Ed was the amount of people littering around the pond. With regard to the trash that settles in the water itself, the pond is ideally cleaned every two years by Facilities Management (formerly the Physical Plant Department) at UNM, according to UNM Newsroom.
Steve Howe, the public information representative for Facilities Management at UNM, said there were two cleanings that took place in 2020: a primary cleaning over spring break and a supplementary cleaning later in the year. The second cleaning also confirmed that, besides turtles and ducks, the pond continues to support bass, koi, carp and even a catfish.
Snyder believes that keeping the rest of the wildlife safe and healthy is the responsibility of everyone who visits the Duck Pond so that other animals don’t face the same fate as Ed.
“Ed never would have been injured in that capacity had a bicyclist, someone walking or even a dog had been better watched and more careful,” Snyder said in an email to her professor.
Shelby Kleinhans is the multimedia editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99