Around the this time last year I was driving home from work. It was a beautiful day. The sun was bright and the day was clear and warm.
Just as I was approaching a stop sign at the intersection leading to my street, I noticed a big gray rock in the middle of the road. I slowed down. I remember feeling somewhat annoyed. My first thought was that someone had nothing better to do than throw a big rock in the middle of the intersection. Just than I realized that the “rock” moved!!!
I quickly pulled over to the curb and got out of my car to take a closer look. As I approached, the mystery object on the road I realized it was a snapping turtle… the biggest one I have seen so far! Including the tail it was at least 3.5 feet in length and approximately 2 feet in width. She was covered from head to tail in mud and had long, green, hair-like algae growing all over her body.
I was not about to leave her in the middle of the road to get squashed. I knew that someone else would not be as attentive to a “rock” in the middle of their path. The poor turtle looked really lost and out of place.
I often carry a cardboard box in case I run into an injured animal and will need something to put it in. However today I had none. Thankfully I had an empty plastic recycling container in the back of my car. I brought it over to the turtle and tried to pick her up. It was than that I realized how truly strong and heavy she was. It was quite a challenge lifting her without dropping her, getting scratched by her long nails, or hit by her powerful tail, or bitten by her strong open mouth. However, after a few minutes of struggling and trying to get a good grip, I was able to lift her and placed her in her “temporary shelter”.
I live not too far from the Zoo. My first thought was that she might have escaped from there and got lost. I decided to drive my “passenger” to the Zoo and see if they would recognize her. Unfortunately for my friend, there were no turtles missing from the Zoo that day. All the ones that were suppose to be there were accounted for. All girls from the office came out to take a look at my strange passenger and expressed that they have not seen such a big, wild, snapping turtle before.
I was not sure what to do next. I could not keep her and did not know where she came from. One of the girls volunteered to called a gentleman in charge of conservation areas and let me speak to him.
During that conversation I learned that around May of every year, they start hearing many stories about turtles being found on the road and coming into people-populated areas. This is the time of the year when turtles get ready to lay their eggs. The banks of their natural ponds are often muddy and too soft to create a safe nest. Turtles prefer rocky surfaces, so they set out in a search for a perfect nesting ground.
People often put gravel on, near or around their driveways for better traction. This “rocky” terrain looks very appealing to a searching “mother-to-be” turtle, so she crosses long distances to get to the spot she feels would be safe for her unborn babies. Regretfully, she does not realize that in the process she puts her safety and the safety of her future babies at risk.
It was suggested that I take my friend to a pond in my area and release her back into the wild. I drove my pregnant turtle to a small ravine close to my house that had a natural wild pond. I carried her close to the edge and released her from the box. She stood there for few minutes with her head up in the air just looking at me, as if to say “I understand you helped me. Thank you”. Than she slowly turned and started making her way to the pond.
I remained standing there to ensure that she made her journey safely. It took her half an hour, and several rest stops in-between, to finally get to the pond, which was about 15 feet away from where I set her down. She then stood for a few minutes at the edge, not moving, just looking back at me. After about 5 minutes she started to slowly emerge herself head first into the water. It looked as if her body was disappearing in slow motion, gradually, barely noticeable… The last thing to go was her tail, as it gently hit the water on it’s way in, as if she waved “good-bye”.
Today I am very careful to watch out for any “rocks” that I may encounter while driving, especially around this time of the year. I wish to ask those who will read this story to do the same. If you live in residential areas please remember, it is gravel that attracts them to us.
Please be cautious and watch out for a SLOW MOVING PEDESTRIAN!