Dogs and cats often get much of the attention when it comes to rescuing animals, but turtles need help as well. Today, we will share the story of a rescue group that saves over 150 lives each year.

Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, located in Jamesport, New York, helps rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured and sick turtles. They run solely on charitable donations, as well as the drive to save stray turtles on the island. The not-for-profit organization aims to provide a high-quality sanctuary for permanently disabled turtles that can’t go back into the wild. Also, they educate the public about threats and challenges facing the native population.

Welcome to Turtle Manor

Their rehabilitation facility called “Turtle Manor” is a fully converted, charming 1920 farmhouse, which 150 of these wonderful creatures call home each year. Located on one acre of natural woodlands and manmade ponds, the sanctuary houses permanently disabled turtles. Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons began in 2012 when it became apparent that the animals in the area needed help.

Karen Testa, the executive director of the organization, says they save over 200 per year that wouldn’t have made it without them. She goes on to explain that they give permanent homes to those turtles that can’t go back to the natural world. They “live out their lives at our sanctuary with dignity and respect,” she says.

“A reward is giving them a second chance on life, especially on release day.”

The organization supports 22 national charities and retains membership in them as well. Karen Testa is a New York State licensed rehabilitator, volunteer, and devoted supporter of animal rights. In 2011, she was honored by the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center for her tremendous work in rehabilitating native turtles. Karen, along with Dr. Robert Pisciotta of the North Fork Animal Hospital and a small staff of volunteers, works selflessly to maintain the organization.

Facts about turtles

  • These creatures are reptiles that are either land-based (terrestrial) or water-based (aquatic).
  • They are characterized by a bony shell that shields their soft body (the shell is attached to the body at rib-like structures).
  • The fossil record indicates that turtles have been around for 220 million years – longer than lizards, snakes, and crocodiles.
  • Being an ectotherm, the internal temperature of a turtle varies with the outside temperature. This is why you can see a turtle basking in the sun to warm up before moving around or eating insects, snails, or worms. Turtles also hibernate during the winter to conserve energy and body mass when they can’t find food easily.
  • They can live over 100 years.
  • The turtle is a government protected animal and should never be removed from the wild.
  • They are most active in the spring months.

Turtle species you may see in Long Island

Mud turtle:

This small critter measures about 3 to 4 inches long. They have a smooth, patternless shell that ranges in color from olive green to near black. Mud turtles are often found in fresh or brackish water. They are listed as endangered in New York.

Painted turtle:

This critter is 4 to 10 inches long with a smooth, black-brown shell. Its soft body is characterized by red, orange, or yellow stripes. It lives in slow-moving freshwater, feasting on vegetation and small insects or crustaceans. They are the most common species in the U.S.

Eastern box turtle:

This species has a dome-like shell that is brown or black with yellow or orange lines. Its soft body has yellow, orange, red, or white spots and streaks. Males have red eyes, while females have brown eyes. They are the only land turtle in the U.S. The eastern box turtle prefers a forest habitat with cool, damp floors.

Diamondback terrapin:

Named after the diamond patterns on its shell, the diamondback lives exclusively in brackish water. It has a distinctive pattern of black spots on its face and neck. They have large webbed feet and can survive in a variety of salinities, including saltwater, for extended periods of time. Females lay anywhere from 4 to 22 eggs, three times per year.

Spotted turtle:

This specimen has yellow spots on its head, neck, legs, and shell. They live in wet, grassy areas near freshwater ponds and measure 3.5 to 5 inches in length. They prefer to nest in fields or meadows, but may also dig a hole in the sandy side of roadways. This turtle lays only 3 to 4 eggs at a time. It was once the most common turtle in New York, but a loss of habitat has drastically reduced its population.

Common snapping turtle:

The state reptile of New York, these creatures live in freshwater ponds and streams. Since they can’t totally withdraw into their shells, they’ve evolved to snap as a defense mechanism against predators. They can grow very large – up to 20 inches in length and weigh up to 35 pounds.


Hatchlings (aka babies):

Newborns are often as small as a quarter and remain by the nest during their first week of life. From the time of their birth, hatchlings are completely independent of their parents and never even see them.

Final thoughts on how you can help

Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons says that if you see a wild one, don’t intervene unless you notice signs of injury. Common signs of distress include:

-Any found October-March (they should be hibernating)

-Predator, vehicle, or machine injury

-Immobile for more than a few hours


-Missing limb

-Shell injury

-Bump by ear(s)

-Bubbles or mucus by nose or mouth

-Making any gurgling noises


-Swollen eyes


-Any liquid discharge

If you see a turtle in need of help, make sure to call your nearest wildlife sanctuary which can rehabilitate turtles. If you don’t have one near you, you can take it to a vet who treats wild patients for free. You can check this website for a list of wildlife vets and rescues near you. If you’d like to donate to Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, you can do so here.