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.
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.