Garden Diary - June 2020

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Exciting Turtle Rescue

Friday, 12 June 2020

June is the time of year when turtles are crossing the road. Most of the time
I see box turtles. They are not especially speedy, and also very stubborn.

Which means any rescue must take them across the highway
as they insist on continuing in the direction they were headed.

Back to today's story. I was driving home from visiting a friend - yes, yes, we were outdoors, appropriately socially distant - and I noticed a rather large blackish brown turtle determinedly starting to cross the road. Not a calm box turtle that may safely be picked up to carry across the road. Oh no. This much larger turtle was a well named snapping turtle. They are irritable. They snap. You may have heard it is safe to pick them up by the tail. Not so. They have a very long neck and can reach portions of your anatomy you thought were out of reach.

But I don't like to see turtles get hit. It takes them a long time to die.

I passed the beast, pulled over to the side of the road, got out. Eyed the turtle,

which ignored me and kept determinedly trundling across the road. Slowly.

What to do, what to do. Cars would come along and I'd wave them around. A woman in a pickup truck going the other way stopped. She said if I had a stick the snapping turtle would bite down and refuse to let go. Whereupon I could drag it across the road. Neither of use had a piece of wood and I didn't see any branches on the side of the road. Gently I tapped the back of its shell with my foot to perhaps speed it along as the woman said "Don't do that!" Snapping turtle may be slow crossing the road but it was fast at whipping around to indicate its displeasure.

Rescue in sight! Here comes a New Jersey state trooper in his partol car, lights flashing. He pulled in behind me and got out of his car. We stood there for a minute or two, looking at the snapping turtle which by now is even grumpier, but still slowing and methodically heading across the road. Trooper said he and his kids rescue turtles, and he'd see what he had in his patrol car. Came back with a plastic milk crate. Now, I'm sure you have an approximate idea of a milk crate's size. The snapping turtle was bigger.

The trooper sort of pushed with the milk crate which did nothing but aggravate the beast. I was wondering if it was possible to sort of upend the crate over as much of the turtle as could be covered and then push . . . The trooper cleverly got a side of the crate under the turtle and quickly tilted. The turtle was now on a digonal into the crate, head down, back end with legs and tail sticking out, all legs scrabbling wildly. He picked the crate up and ran it across the road, across the ditch, flipped the turtle out and came back at a calmer pace.

He was so quick I never got an image of the transit of the snapping turtle.
I thanked him for his heroic help. We waved goodbye. So endeth the story.

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