Friday, May 8, 2009

Brake for Turtles!

Maintaining two large dogs means I spend a good amount of time walking in the woods. One thing that makes it hard to move quickly is the turtle retrieval. Somehow, my husband has convinced our two retrievers that turtles need to be brought in line. They find them - from the size of a quarter, to so large they cannot carry them - on every walk. I often am sauntering along, thinking, "What can I make from that vine hanging down, and is it time to cut it?" And suddenly I am aware of the yellow dog walking very carefully next to me, with her mouth bulging at the lips. If I don't stop and tell her to put it down, she is liable to spend the whole walk carrying a turtle! Here she comes now...

Some days they will each find 5 different turtles. We used to mark them with nail polish, and I think we counted almost 30 separate individuals one year.

This time of year is hard for me to drive. The turtles are crossing roadways to get to nesting sites, or just migrating from pond to pond. Am I the only one who feels like people TRY to hit them? It makes me crazy. I am notorious for stopping and helping a turtle across the road. People tease me about it all the time, and sometimes I get an earful from other drivers...

Who wouldn't have stopped for this gal?

Not only is she IN the road, but she is not crossing right to left, she is walking at a diagonal, and it is going to take her a good 60 yards before she crosses it all the way! BRAKE FOR TURTLE! She was about 18 inches long - her carapace (that's the top of the shell, for those of you who don't know about turtles) - not including her tail! She obviously has done this before. Note the scarring where she has been either hit by a car, or maybe even a boat...Fortunately, they are tough critters. She probably weighed 30 pounds! With my back and neck issues, I could not possibly carry her. Maybe I could walk behind her, and make the cars slow? Probably not. I did not see how I was going to safeguard her journey.

Fortunately, another turtle lover stopped...someone stronger than I. I only had to wield the camera! You can see from this photo how huge she was.

Her claws were awesome, as was her tail. Of course her helper is wearing gloves, and even so, we both were surprised that she did not try to bite him. I am told they can put that neck out far enough to nip you even when holding them by the tail!

...And, yes, I do think this was a female (in my very limited experience sexing turtles.) I believe she was on her way back to the pond after laying eggs in the grassy areas across the road. I can only hope that she chose the horse pasture, because lawn mowers can crush the nest before the eggs hatch. Will keep you posted...perhaps one day there will be hatchlings all over the road, and I will have to stop again!


ZaftigDelights said...

I would stop for the turtles too!! That's wonderful of you to care about them. They are fabulous critters. :o)

Sandie (etteam)

Midnightcoiler said...

Wow, That's some snapping turtle! Glad that she lived to see another day. The green algae on her back is so cool. Wonder how old she is. Nice looking blog!