The Great Snapping Turtle Rescue
I was traveling on route 550 in the morning as per usual, on my way to work, when I spotted a snapping turtle in the road. It was in my lane and I had to swerve to miss it. As quickly as I could, I pulled over to a safe spot, turned my car off, and came back to perform a rescue.
Another girl (hello, soul sistah!) coming from the other direction had also stopped, with her car sitting in the road, flashers on. She was standing with her hands on her hips looking quizzically at the turtle. I could tell she wanted to help, but she seemed a little timid with the turtle.
"Ooh, it's a snapper!" I said. "Will it bite?" she asked, with a trace of an accent. (Well, yes, it might try to.) She attempted to grab the turtle's shell but the turtle lunged and that freaked her out. She stepped back, looking worried. "Let me get a picture first and then we'll move it," I said, and I whipped out my camera and snapped two quick photos.
Then I grasped the turtle firmly on either side of the middle of its shell and simply lifted it, and moved it to the other side of the road, where I set it down gently. It took just a few steps to get there. There was a swamp (Waddle Swamp) downhill and that seemed like better turtle habitat than where it was heading.
However, there is a rule about helping turtles cross the road: Always move a turtle off the road in the direction in which it was heading. So that's what I did. It felt counter-intuitive, though; I couldn't imagine what a water turtle could possibly want up that dry hill.
Mission accomplished! So here's a shout-out to my soul sistah, who also tried to help; and also a doff of the hat to the guy in the car behind her who stopped and patiently waited for us and watched our little episode, which probably took no more than 3 to 5 minutes. Sometimes it doesn't take much to help save a life!
Before I left, I gave my soul sistah a big smile and a thank you. It felt like we were united in a common cause: just two girls performing a snapping turtle rescue, thank you very much! My faith in the goodness of strangers was restored.
I went in to work and posted a photo of my turtle (yes, now it's become MY turtle somehow) on Facebook, and received many likes and encouraging comments. A friend who knows about wild critters informed me it was most likely a female snapping turtle, heading uphill to lay her eggs in a dry, sunny spot, a process which would take several hours.
Then she would turn around and head back downhill to her home in the swamp, crossing the road once again. Good luck to the mama turtle and the entire turtle family! It was a pleasure to be of service!
The soundtrack song: Fontella Bass, with Rescue Me.
Bonus: tips on how to help a turtle cross a road (see also: video)
1. Make sure your car is off the road in a safe place.
2. Be quick about it! Another car could be coming soon.
3. If you are standing in the road, make sure you are VISIBLE to any on-coming drivers, by waving or jumping up and down.
4. Pick the turtle up by the edges of the shell, NEVER by the tail. (Grabbing by the tail can injure a turtle's spinal cord!)
5. They recommend you handle a snapper by the rear edges of the shell near the tail, and simply SLIDE it across the road if it is large, as this one was. Snappers can reach their heads around and BITE if you are close enough. (My snapper was pretty docile, all things considered.)
6. If you do not feel comfortable handling the turtle, slide a car mat, an old bed sheet, or a shovel underneath it, and slide or drag it across the road.
7. And perhaps most importantly: ALWAYS MOVE THE TURTLE ACROSS THE ROAD IN THE DIRECTION IN WHICH IT WAS ORIGINALLY HEADING! Also, make sure when you are done that it is FACING the direction it was originally going, lest it get confused and wander back into the road.
8. After you are done touching ANY unknown wild creature, it is best to wash your hands. I keep anti-bacterial soap in my camera bag for this purpose. (And my own thought is that we only TOUCH wild creatures when our assistance is needed.)
9. And this is a philosophical issue: Always choose mercy. And don't be afraid to get involved in a situation where you can help save a life. I am just a small person, but I am absolutely fearless when it comes time to help other creatures!
Thank you for reading! :-) I hope you learned something. I did too!