Turtle Ninja Warriors


Painted turtles are cute, and grateful to be rescued

Painted turtles are cute, and grateful to be rescued

I’ve saved a couple of turtles this summer, and it always gives me a sort of warm, fuzzy feeling to be able to pull over, shoo them on their way to the safe shoulder of the road, and see them give me a look of endearingly turtle-ish gratitude.

The turtles I’ve saved so far have have all been Painted Turtles, a sort of cartoon version of a friendly turtle, with a shiny shell and brightly colored body. Most of them have been around six inches long, and, most importantly, none of them have tried to kill me.

Coming home from Paula’s on the weekend, I encountered a mammoth turtle about 3/4 of the way across the road. “Mammoth” is the appropriate term – this thing had to weigh at least 27 pounds, and was the size of a hubcap. It was covered in green slime, and so far as I could tell, it wasn’t moving. There’s been a lot in the news lately about how turtles are being threatened with extinction because they are hit so often by cars while crossing roads. They do this to get from the marshy areas where they live to sand or gravel areas where they can lay eggs.  Once the eggs hatch, the turtles reverse the journey, heading back into the the marshy areas across the road.

I felt an overwhelming urge to try to help this poor, beleagured animal get to safety, so I pulled over at the side of the road and grabbed a copy of “The French Bullytin” magazine I had sitting on the seat next to me. It’s a full sized, glossy magazine with a sturdy cover, and seemed perfect for scooping up giant turtles and nudging them to safety.

Turtles are slow moving animals – everybody knows this. Turtles are pretty much what defines the word ‘slow’, not to mention ‘steady’.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when the immovable moss covered rock in the road reacted to my attempts to scoot her along with a magazine by doing a 360 mid air whirl that ended with me confronting a hissing, snapping, saw toothed maw that seemed intent on snapping my arm off.

Just like this, only bigger, angrier, and with more hissing

Just like this, only bigger, angrier, and with more hissing

Remember that kids cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It all makes so much sense now, because this turtle was doing some serious “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Snapping Turtle” moves on my ass. No one ever warned me that turtles could do spin kicks, and no one ever warned me that turtles hiss.

Angry Mutant Ninja turtle managed to grab ahold of the corner of my copy of the French Bullytin, and tore it clean in half.  I was suddenly very aware of all the statements about Turtles being “creatures who are entitled to regard the brontosaur and mastodon as brief zoological fads” (Tortoise Trust, also suppliers of the photo above).

I admitted defeat, and left the turtle to make her own way across the road. When I drove by the same spot the next day, there was no sign of her, and no sign of her having been hit by anything, either. I have to imagine that if any car was stupid enough to try and run her over, she would have simply chewed through their tires and done a crane kick to the underbody.

I might start keeping a small, flat shovel in the car, for future rescue efforts. Also possibly body armor.

9 replies
  1. mikken
    mikken says:

    I’ve been known to hustle a snapping turtle off the road. I was later told that picking them up is quite dangerous – huh, guess I was lucky! I just got hissed at for my efforts.

    My kid and some friends found one that had been hit by a car and was injured – they got a dog crate, shivvied it in and brought it to the local emergency vet (who got called first to see if they would take him). Apparently, the word had not gotten to the vet about the species, so when they slid him out of the crate (at the vet’s instruction), she jumped back and said, “THAT’S a SNAPPING turtle!” Took her a minute to regain her composure, they got him safely in a cage in the back where she was going to give him “a few minutes to calm down” before she looked at his injuries. I suspect the few minutes were more for the vet than the turtle…

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Well, the Tortoise Trust claims that the hissing and snapping is more a defense mechanism than an actual threat – that they usually pull their punches, so to speak, without actually making contact.

      Me, I’m going to stick with the handy shovel idea – one with a nice long handle. I’m all for helping wildlife, but I’m fond of my fingers and find them quite useful.

  2. JenniferJ
    JenniferJ says:

    I pick up 2 or 3 western pond turtles a year from the middle of the street. If they are nearish water and obviously have a goal, I send them on their way. They do NOT appreciate the help. So far this year it’s been two turtles, a king snake and two large gopher snakes.

    By late August, sometimes they are out trying to find water, having lost their pond to evaporation. These are typically dehydrated and very passive. A good soak, drink and rest later, they get back to their generally disagreeable selves and we release them in our year round pond to hang out in, if they like, until the rain starts up again.

    BTW, are you going to let Arlie know that her magazine is good for defending against snapping turtle assaults?

  3. David
    David says:

    This is, hands down, the single best blog post I’ve read this week. Maybe longer. I kinda think of moving turtles to the side of road as being on a par with helping little old ladies across the street. If one of those aforementioned ladies did anything akin to what Mister Ninja Turtle did, I’d not only *not* offer to help, I’d drive many blocks out of my way in order to avoid them altogether! Come to think of it, my grandmother was known to have a pretty serious attitude in her day….

  4. alex
    alex says:

    this is so timely.. a group i am on just discussed the snapping turtle and i had no idea it could move so fast and in fact SNAP so fast!!! clearly they have a leg up on the power rangers… however i bet the power puff girls would kick some mutant turtle ass…

  5. Amy Hughes
    Amy Hughes says:

    Oh I just love that second photo!

    The other day a turtle that was close to 14 inches long (shell size) came walking into my family room! He was obviously lost and it is easy to believe he came found his way here to my family to be saved by us the truth is that it was just a random occurrence. I live in south florida and my yard is a friend to all and a certified wildlife federation habitat. The back door was open and he just walked in. I was fostering a boxer at the time and she alerted me to the fact that there was an interloper.
    We “captured” him/her and released her into the “wild”- a canal just down the street from me.

    After much research I found out she was a “Red Eared Slider Turtle”, a turtle that is considered a pest here.

    It’s sad to me that so many of these non-indigenous animals are released when folks get tired of them- for instance, this past January when temps got very low here for a prolonged period of time iguanas were just dropping out of the trees! Iguanas are not indigenous to this area, these poor things are the product of irresponsible owners who just plain got tired of them and opened a cage and let them go.

    We need to remember we are not only stewards of this earth, but also of the animals we chose to bring into our homes (and also of the trees and other vegitation we plant in our yards)!
    This is especially important here in Florida where so many animals that are “pets” have been released and gone on to overtake native species.

    Thank you so much for your blog and all you do… and a chance to vent and hopefully educate a little bit!

  6. Dani
    Dani says:

    That’s funny. My husband and I once tried to ‘save’ a GIANT snapping turtle on the road to much the same result. It is amazing how big they can get. We used to catch smaler ones (along with the nicer sliders, painted turtles, etc) in the pond I swam in as a kid. Makes you wonder if some of those granddaddys were lurking around in there too. ***shudder***

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FrogDogZ, Dawn Garner. Dawn Garner said: Ever met a Turtle Ninja Warrior in the middle of the road? This person's experience is pretty entertaining: http://bit.ly/bbbQ3w […]

Comments are closed.