'This Was a First': Animal Rescue Discovers Owl and Turtle Stuck Together

Responding to a call from a resident about an owl that was having trouble flying on July 12, Deputy Animal Control Officer Ryan Robinson of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia (AWLA), found that the owl's talon had become clamped around a turtle's shell, effectively conjoining the two animals.

Back at AWLA headquarters, Robinson and Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint assessed the animals' condition. The recipient of the 2017 Virginia Animal Control Association's Dr. Kent Roberts Award for Animal Control Officer of the Year, Toussaint has been with AWLA since 2012 and in her current role since 2016. She is an expert on humane urban wildlife management methods and has been published widely on the subject, according to her AWLA biography. However, she, like Robinson himself, had never before encountered a situation of this kind. As the official AWLA account tweeted on July 13, "This was a first for our Animal Control team."

This was a first for our Animal Control team - an owl and a turtle stuck together! #animalcontrol #animalrescue #allinforanimals pic.twitter.com/Ib7NpPatrw

— AWLArlington, VA (@AWLAArlington) July 13, 2021

While it might have been a first for AWLA, it's not the first time that entirely different animals have found their fates (or, in this case, their body parts) entwined by circumstance. In 2019, California firefighters were contacted to rescue a German shepherd from a tunnel discovered that Taylor had a companion: a 70-pound tortoise named Godzilla. Last month, a man became internet-famous for feeding pizza to a squirrel and a raccoon that were marooned on a channel marker in the middle of a river together. Finally, a highly venomous eastern brown snake was recently found stuck to a adhesive mouse trap along with several crickets and other insects.

In a TikTok video of the inspection, a masked Toussaint carefully lifts the owl and the turtle out of a pine-green carrier. Wrapped in a yellow towel, the two seem relatively calm. Once Toussaint completes the checkup, she and Robinson carefully separate the two animals by dislodging the owl's talon from the turtle's carapace [top shell] and plastron [bottom shell], according to WJLA. Using a small, delicate pair of silver scissors, Toussaint appears to insert the blades into the gap between the carapace and plastron and exert pressure until the talon pops out, slightly bloodied. Based on the footage, the talon may have been tangled in a reed or a piece of ribbon.

While the owl sustained a minor injury as a result of the ordeal, the turtle was none the worse for wear, AWLA reported. Both will be cared for by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator until they are well enough to resume life in the wild. Their respective species were not divulged.

A spotted wood owl sits in tree.
An owl was recently brought to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia, with a talon stuck in the shell of a turtle. A spotted wood owl sits on a tree branch in a Singapore park on May 27. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images