[Posted 12 July 2002, Wednesday.] I can't believe how many tortoises/turtles I'm finding on the roads this year. I've found 2 more turtles or tortoises in the past 2 weeks!
1 July 2002 (Monday)
As I was driving through the countryside again, I found a large turtle walking diagonally across a small concrete bridge. The bridge crosses a small creek near a larger river. I found a somewhat safe place to park nearby with my flashers on, and retrieved the turtle from the road. He happened to be walking on the bridge just before 6 p.m., when the road has light traffic due to people returning home from work.
Although I couldn't capture this characteristic on my camera, the turtle had beautiful reddish-orange coloring at the top of its legs and neck. The color gradually faded into the slate gray color of its feet and head. I tried to take pictures of its beautiful upper limb color, but the turtle wasn't exactly happy as I approached and then picked it up. There's no way that I'd force the turtle's legs out, because I don't want to stress or injure the animal. Instead I can only point out the hint of color on some of the photos.
After a few seconds for inspection of its health and quick photos, I put the turtle in dry leaves a few feet from the side of the road. This would allow access to the bank of the creek, just in case it's a turtle instead of a tortoise, and needs water access. There were only farms and homes in the area, and the creek bank was rather steep. Honestly there wasn't any good place for it nearby.
Pretty Face, but Slow Learner
Here's an update on the 3 prior tortoises I've rescued this year. I've been down each of the 3 roads several times since rescuing each of the 3 tortoises, and have not found any of them back on the road. I haven't seen anything that looks like turtle road kill, either. So I'm assuming their encounters with a large monster/human (me) taught them to stay off the road. Unfortunately, this turtle wasn't such a fast learner.
Just a few days after rescuing this turtle from the road, I was driving down the exact same road and saw a man rescuing a turtle that looked just like it. It was the same size -- about the size of a dinner plate (length is greater than a plate, but sides aren't as wide), and the same color. This time it was seen on the road near the river, not the nearby creek.
I had my window rolled down, so I asked the man if he was taking it off the road. The man didn't respond, and seemed rather irritated that I was trying to talk to him. So I pulled away slowly, watching in my rear view mirror to be sure that he walked past his car to put the turtle on the ground, and not in his car. Despite his unfriendly behavior, the man did walk past his car, and put the turtle somewhere on a side street running along the river. Since then, I haven't seen the turtle on that particular road again.
Notice some of the orange and yellow colorings in these photos. The bright colors are only visible when the turtle has its arms and neck stretched in a walking position.
10 July 2002 (Wednesday)
Less than 2 weeks later, I was driving on rural roads and saw yet another turtle on the pavement. It's the 5th one I've found on roads this year!
The first thing I noticed was the length and thickness of its tail. I've never seen anything like it on a turtle, in person or on photos. The top of its tail has a row of bumps resembling alligators' and crocodiles' tails. This is one well-armored turtle. Its head was thicker and wider than other turtles I've seen, its shell was about the size of a dinner plate, and its height around 3 inches tall.
Mouth as a Weapon
As soon as I picked it up, the turtle opened its mouth in a sort of threatening gesture. Since its neck wasn't long enough to reach my hand, this posed no danger to me, but it did reveal the turtle's cute pink tongue. I also noticed that a worm was writhing on the turtle's skin above its head. (In the photo to the right, the worm is slightly visible 1/2 inch directly above the turtle's nose.) I assume the worm was trying to bore a hole in the turtle's skin. There were also a number of other small insects on the turtle, but the worm bothered me the most. So I found a stick and tried to remove the worm with it. The turtle didn't like this at first, and tried to stop me by moving its mouth in the direction of anything I did. But after a few tries, it seemed as if the turtle finally realized that I was moving the worm around with the stick. Finally the worm attached itself to the stick, and I flung the stick a few yards away. Now the more important thing -- I needed a place to put the turtle.
Lack of Habitat
As usual, it was tough finding a suitable spot to leave the turtle. The area was mostly farms and houses, except for a small patch of woods in the corner of one home's yard. I put the tortoise a few feet from the road, at the edge of that small remaining standing forest. The area has both shade and sun, with a variety of vegetation to eat. Across the road was a field with cattle grazing, and adjacent was a large mowed front lawn. Hopefully he won't run into future problems with cars, lawn mowers, or cattle. There really wasn't any other place for a turtle in the area, so I had no better choice. I'm amazed it has survived this long, and hope it can manage to last for the rest of its natural life cycle.
© 2002 by Pam Rotella
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