What To Do With A Dead Turtle?

What to do with a dead turtle
Written by Daniel Paul

Every living thing on the planet has to die at some point in its life. That is the bitter reality of life. It is never easy to say goodbye to our pets, who have become part and parcel of our family and life.

When it comes to turtles, they are one of the longest living pets you can get that can live for decades. All these years grow the bond between you and your pet really strong, making them more like a habit. Alas, we can never keep our pets for long enough.

So, now here comes a hard time of their departure from the visible world. It is not only difficult to accept the death in the first place, but you are also in a blind alley, knowing nothing to do.

In this article, with our deep condolences, we will guide you about how to say farewells to your turtle. Moreover, if there is any way you can preserve them.

Turtles, like all other animals, decay after death. As their body decomposes and gases accumulate in their deceased body, a terrible odor is emitted. The gases produced inside the dead turtles give them buoyancy, allowing them to float on water.

Turtles that appear motionless, on the other hand, may simply be brumating or resting. Determine if a dead turtle is indeed dead before deciding what to do with it.

Turtles may appear to be dead during brumation, but they are not. Ensure that the turtle is genuinely dead. Stimulate it and look for indications such as unpleasant scents and decomposition.

Understand The Brumation Process

When the weather cools down, and it is difficult to locate food, the turtle’s go into brumation.

Brumation is much likely to hibernation of the turtle. During this period, the turtle’s metabolism slows down, and it lies comfortably in a safe spot waiting for difficult times to pass. The digestion stops circulation, and breathing slows down to the point that it becomes unnoticeable.

Wild turtles usually rest into the burrow, dig up in mud by the, or in the pile of leaf litter.


It’s never easy to deal with the death of a beloved pet. Moreover, the resentments when you have confusion of brumation will be more tremendous. So, it is better to confirm death before proceeding any further. Use the facts below to determine whether or not your turtle is alive, and then decide what to do with its body and shell.

Confirming Death Of A Turtle:

It is never easy to differentiate between a bromating and a dead turtle at one sight. So, do not be too quick in reaching the conclusion that your turtle has passed the ultimate rainbow bridge. Even if your turtle is not moving and looking shriveled, you need to check thoroughly.

There can be multiple signs that can be confused with death. Some of the common signs of brumation are:

  1. Sunken eyes
  2. Cold to touch,
  3. Shriveled body
  4. Maggots or flies in the flesh
  5. Bad odor
  6. Skin or shell appeared rotting.

You see, all these signs are present in a dead turtle. So, better confirm the death before you reach any conclusion.

The shriveled skin and sunken eyes depict dehydration in bromating turtles. Also, due to the slowing down of metabolism, a cool temperature is also expected. White spots or furry areas having fungal growth may be confused with the decay of the body. Rotting of the shell can produce a rotten-smelling liquid. And lastly, the injuries can cause maggots and flies to live in the pet.

Look For Life

If your turtle is just motionless for a long time and does not have severe signs of dehydration, disease, or decay, you may let it come back to normal naturally when spring returns and the temperature rises above 50 degrees.

Turtles are pretty hardcore creatures and can also survive the freezing of their internal organs. However, if you touch a bromating turtle’s legs and push them away from its body, it is very likely to retract them into its shell.

If you see no movement, you can then place your turtle into a tub of water that is mild hot or at room temperature. This will help the turtle regain its consciousness and return to normal in a short time. You can then see visible signs of life.

In case of signs of dehydration, you can place your turtle in a tub of water filled halfway to the height of its shell containing electrolytes. Make sure to keep the temperature between 75 to 80 degrees.

Placing the body in water for up to 30 minutes may trigger signs of life such as defecation, motion, urination, or others. You may also be able to see breathing movements or pulse in the skin between legs and tail or head and legs.

If you still are unsure, you may visit your vet to get a final opinion.

Disposing Of Dead Turtle

Once you have confirmed the death of your turtle, now it’s time to say final farewells to our beloved pet.

We don’t want to see our pets lying dead. Unfortunately, situations like these do happen. For the benefit of our surroundings and the environment, we must appropriately dispose of a pet turtle when it dies. Here are some general rules for burying a dead turtle:

Safety Measures

Always cover your hands with gloves before touching a dead turtle. Otherwise, it can be dangerous.

 Try to touch it minimum. If you have found a dead turtle in the forest area, do not try to deal with it on your own. Call the local health department immediately.

Burying A Turtle

Burying a small or medium turtle is a healthy way to dispose of it. For disposal, put the dead turtle inside a plastic bag and put that bag in a box. Now you must bury the box in a large hole.

However, you should verify with your local government on burial regulations. Some states have specific restrictions for how deep an animal must be buried. Keep an eye out for electricity lines or other utility cables when digging the hole. Also, stay away from areas that are near a water source or are prone to floods.

Contacting A Sanitation Department

Check to see if there is a dead animal removal service in your area. You can ask them to dispose of the dead turtle if there is one. For disposal, you can also contact your local sanitation department.

Cremation Services

Try to make your turtle’s final arrangements with a little more care. You can contact a local veterinarian who doesn’t want him to end up in a dumpster. The neighborhood veterinarian may be able to provide excellent pet cremation services. He can even take care of the last-minute details for you.

Preserving The Shell Of A Dead Turtle

It can be a great memory for you to preserve the shell of a pet turtle. Remove any residual meat and tissue from the turtle shell if you want to keep it. The innards could take a year or more to dissolve entirely.

We have to speed the decomposition process if you want to preserve the shell. The following few methods are used for this purpose:

  • Use of cadaver cleaning beetles
  • Bury the dead turtle in the ground
  • Store the dead turtle in the metal drum

Some taxidermists use various species of beetles for cleaning the bones of dead animals. A colony of dermestid beetles can eat the flesh of your dead tortoise within some weeks. Unfortunately, creating a beetle colony is time-consuming and takes several months.

The following two possibilities are a little less complicated. You can bury the turtle several feet underground in a mesh bag wrapped in a plastic bag.

In five months, dig up the turtle to see if it has decomposed. Rebury the turtle if any flesh remains and wait another month or two.

Another option is to keep the turtle in a metal drum or other sealed container outside. Before sealing the turtle, place it in a mesh bag and place it in direct sunlight. Within a few months, the insides should be entirely decomposed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does A Turtle Die If It Flips Over?

Turtles can still breathe when they’re flipped over. Therefore they won’t die. If the turtle is stuck for an extended period, it succumbs to a lack of food and hydration. Fortunately, most turtles can self-right when flipped over, but this depends on the shell. It is easier for dome-shelled turtles to flip over. Flipping back over with a flat shell takes more work.

  1. What Could Be The Reasons Behind The Sudden Death Of The Turtle?

A turtle can perish for a variety of reasons. Although it is difficult to determine the specific cause of a turtle’s death, the following are some of the most common causes:

Overheating appears to be the most common cause of turtle death. I’ve seen turtles that were fine one day and then died the next for this reason.

If the habitat is not adequately set up, a turtle can die. Turtles have some essential needs to survive. The turtle may die abruptly if the owner fails to do any of these things.


It is not always easy to tell if your turtle is genuinely deceased. Many people believe that a brumating turtle is dead. Brumating is defined as the hibernation process of cold-blooded animals, especially for turtles and tortoises. When it is time for cold weather, your pet can become inactive or lethargic. This situation might make you believe that your turtle is dead. If your turtle becomes unresponsive unexpectedly, take her to the veterinarian before proclaiming her dead. The veterinarian can save the turtle’s life if it is unwell.

Turtles, on the other hand, are distinguished by their shells. The shell of the turtle remains intact as the remainder of it decomposes when it dies. Preserving reptilian shells is a reasonably straightforward process for individuals who do not want to say goodbye to their reptilian friends.

Hope this article helped you in saying your last goodbyes to your turtle in the best possible manner. In case of any further queries, you may drop down the comment or contact us. We would be happy to help.