More Turtle Stories 2004
[Posted 23 June 2004]
Yesterday I was sure that a turtle would have died if I hadn't stopped to remove it from the road. Take a look at the photo to the right -- the farm machinery driving down this busy 2-lane highway was so wide that its tires hung over both the side and center lines. I had to flag him down and point at the turtle, then step into the grass at the side of the road so that he could avoid hitting both me and the turtle. He and drivers before him were completely unaware of the turtle on the road until I used hand signals and pointed at it in the roadway. This highway was very busy, with drivers blindly following each other at high speeds.
Finally, when traffic cleared enough to cross the road, I had my camera ready to take one shot of this beautiful black and yellow turtle. But this story had an ambiguous ending. As I approached the turtle, a red car coming in the opposite direction stopped after I waved and pointed to the animal. The woman in the car asked if I wanted her to take the turtle to her woods. I asked if she lived nearby, and faced with a split-second decision, let her take it.
As she drove away, I wondered if I'd done the right thing. I didn't get an answer on whether she lived nearby, and had no idea if she had a water source in her woods, just in case the turtle needed one. It's very possible that this turtle is a female looking for a place to lay her eggs, and she may need to return to a water source afterwards. But I considered its situation at the moment -- crossing a busy highway in a residential area, with fields and a few trees. The side of the road it wanted to reach was uphill, then only had a few trees separating the road from a plowed field. Could the turtle make it up the hill, or would it be killed trying to cross the road again? More likely it'd try to follow the road to a better location, without being able to navigate traffic. My guess was that it needed to be removed from the area immediately. I could have told the woman that we should leave the turtle in the place we found it, but realistically that could have easily meant its death.
Wildlife decisions can be hard at times, and I realize that both options had their disadvantages. The encouraging thing about a woman placing the turtle in her woods is that the immediate danger had passed. For at least that one day, the turtle was saved from becoming roadkill, a fate that appeared to be imminent. Beyond that day, the turtle would have the opportunity to explore its new surroundings and determine whether another move was in order. At least it had the chance to live another day, with time to search for a better home. I still think this was the better option.
© 2004 by Pam Rotella
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