Written by Genevieve Esson of Missouri
One year ago, I was riding my bicycle at a local park and I saw the oddest site. A huge snapping turtle was making its way to a busy street. I could see a disaster about to happen: the creature getting smashed and cars colliding and having an accident. I stopped immediately. I was totally amazed by what I saw. This poor creature was on the brink of desperation. Its whole body was very dry except for its eyes, and they were tearing.
I looked around me and saw other exercise enthusiasts passing by and gawking but no other stopped. The snapping turtle miraculously had stopped in its tracks and I felt like I was having a staring contest with it. Finally, a young man, another fellow artist who had been drawing a dead bird, stopped and asked me what was going on? I told him and he asked if he could help in any way. I said absolutely. We proceeded to flag down a girl on a golf cart who was handing out drinks to the local golfers. She said she would call it in on her walkie talkie.
We waited a good half hour, and no help came. I told my new friend that I would ride my bike to the golf club and ask for help. I did, and no one was available, so I asked the reception area guy who was gaggled by phone calls if I could borrow a large xerox box and he said “of course.” I rode back and the bird artist and snapping turtle were still hanging out. The artist, Jerry, said he could pick up the turtle and put him in the box. This turtle was huge, stinky and feisty. Jerry successfully deposited the turtle in the box without losing any fingers.
We asked some curious students who were hanging out if they could watch my mountain bike. They said sure. Jerry and I both helped carry the boxed snapping turtle, who was fidgeting, to the nearest pond. We walked about a 3/4 mile and gently placed the box by the pond, turning it over gently. The snapping turtle reached the ground, slightly bumping its head on the ground, but made it safely on all fours. He seemed out of it, but then started for the water’s edge. He stopped, turned completely around and stared at us as if saying “Thank You.” It was the most wonderful connection and feeling I had had with an animal. Jerry and I both looked at each other in wonder.
Mr. Snapping Turtle turned around and proceeded to walk into the water and dove into the cool refreshing water and swam away. I thanked Jerry and I returned to find the students chattering away, watching my mountain bike. I told them about our success and thanked them. I experienced a connection with the animal kingdom and the human race that day. We all felt like a good deed had been done. I was glad.
Snapping Turtle Rescue Tips:
Moving a snapper is a delicate issue. Picking them up by the tail can cause severe back injuries for the animal. Lifting them around the middle puts you at risk for losing a finger to their powerful jaws as snapping turtles have quite a long reach. One technique is to take the floor mat out from the front seat of your vehicle. While holding the very rear of the carapace (shell) lift the turtle onto the mat and then swiftly drag the mat toward the edge of the road (keeping your fingers at the back of the mat, NEVER near the turtle’s face). Always use caution and be aware of traffic and the dangers presented by the turtle itself. If it is necessary to help a turtle cross a busy street, please move it only in the direction it was headed or the animal will simply return to the same spot later and try again. And please, never put a turtle in your car and drive it elsewhere. They should always remain in their home territory.
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