Wheels for paralyzed turtle

Jim Lee is a contributor to MAKE magazine, and is interested in turtles and bamboo. He built a set of wheels for an injured box turtle, shown here.
Little Bit, a young Eastern Box Turtle was hit by a car in September of 2000. Her shell was crushed and she was left partially paralyzed. There was no way she would ever be released to the wild as happens with most successful rehabs. I repaired her shell using velcro strips epoxied to anchor points on her carapace. After some weeks Little Bit seemed to have made a full recovery except for the use of her hind legs. So some wheels seemed to be the way to go. Some lightweight model airplane wheels on a wire frame did the trick. The removable wheels were secured by a velcro strip epoxied to her plastron. The velcro strips on the carapace were removed after four months. She was eating, drinking, and exploring all the rooms of my house. Eventually she was able to move around outside as well. She lived until early in 2002 when she died unexpectedly (and suddenly). After all she had been through I did not have the heart to order any kind of post mortem from the local vet school. I simply said goodbye and thanked her for what she had shared with me and others who met her.


  1. i like how they fetch the newspaper in the morning and love to be petted and be taken for walks.

  2. As a fellow turtle owner/herpiphile, I really enjoyed this story – this guy is a great friend to turtles everywhere.

  3. In all seriousness, the turtle was probably eggbound. If her hind end was crushed, it might have constricted her cloaca enough to prevent her from laying eggs (or her contracting muscles were paralyzed). Turtles produce eggs without a need for fertilization first. (the males fertilize the eggs after they’re laid).

    female turtles will sometimes just keep producing eggs, regardless of whether they are laid. If they stay inside her, they calcify (shells get thicker and harder) and just keep building up, crushing her internal organs. Turtles can’t really expand their bodies, so they quickly run out of internal room and suffocate or die of organ failure.

    amazing to see the effort you took to save the animal’s quality of life…very admirable.

  4. true love. It always hurts so sweet. I do understand. Life is hard, but if weren’t for the poignant moments then why bother at all.

    Of course, I can see and assume that a person with a more republican state of mind might just say, “Oh cool! Hot Wheels!”

    “Bugs beware!” Both the bunny and the insects.

    1. Sad Story, I agree with Jay the Turtleman.
      soljb, thats total nonsense. for starters, that turtle would b 2 young judging by the size of it to have eggs in her, they don’t start layin till they’re around the age of 5 (in the wild). If the eggs are unfertalized eggs, they will pass them in the water, when the eggs have been fertalized, which happens during breeding, they will lay the egg in the ground. I have many turtles my self, some of which are rescue turtles

  5. Aww, poor lil’ turtle. At least it can move around again.

    It makes me sad when I see frogs, birds, etc. mowed down on a street. Nobody cares when they get hit by a car. ;-;

  6. Thanks for posting this.

    When I first saw this I thought they might have been the wheels that speed forward when you roll them back.

  7. This story is very personal for me because I too rescued a turtle, one who had lost the use of all his legs. We replaced his legs with RC Car tires and mounted a motor to the top of his shell, one that responded to the upwards and downwards movement of his head by a series of wires and levers (for steering left and right). It was quite a sight to see him fly past at 30 mph, chasing the neighborhood kids around. We set up a few ramps after he showed a predilection for jumping off things, and he would spend hours hurtling himself like a little turtle superman into various piles of leaves and whatnot.

  8. bless ya homie! my roomate and i rehab gopher tortoises, and raise salcada and panther tortoises, and i was blown back by your resourcefulness! my condolences on the loss of your reptilian bud.

  9. @17

    Turtle-modders will take on a whole new meaning once genetic engineering becomes a homebrew industry. :-)

  10. SOLJB-

    Nice try at sounding intelligent, my friend. But the notion that male box turtles fertilize the eggs after they’ve been laid is laughable. Turtles of all kinds mate just like people do. Do your homework before you spew your false facts.

  11. Tried to post once, retrying now.. excuse if there are two.

    You are my man hero, I love what you did for the turtle, you rock!

    p.s. you can use the Nexcare Flexible clear stretchy tape to repair turtle shells, then they will grow back together :>)

    hope this gets posted, the account did not work when trying to login!

  12. she is so cute i have my own box turtle he got ran over bye my moms truk after we resud him from the high way the doctor glued his shell together on the bottom he has recoverd and is well

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