One life lost, one life saved

Turtle on Queensborough Road, heading south

This is the very first turtle I have ever rescued, the rescue having taken place this very evening. This is the “before” photo, with the frightened turtle having just started to head across the road and not knowing what to make of my presence.

My drive to work this morning took me along Riggs Road, a shortcut to the gas station on Highway 62 north of Madoc where I was hoping (fruitlessly) that the price might have dipped below $1.30 a litre. (Stupid Iraq unrest.) Along that gravel road I came face to face with yet another of the local turtles who have been making their way across the roadways in great numbers (because apparently the other side of the road is a much better place to lay your eggs).

Regular readers will know how Raymond has kind of taken the cause of the turtles to heart. (Readers who are not regulars can read about it here and here.) He has become very watchful for turtles on the roads, and very good at moving them across to the other side to save them from vehicles that might injure or kill them inadvertently or (this I don’t even like to think about) deliberately.

But while Raymond has saved many a turtle (seven at last count for this spring alone), until today I had not had a chance to put my turtle-moving gloves to use. This morning, I got that chance with the turtle on Riggs Road.

I stopped the car. I considered the situation. People, this was a big turtle. And it was fearless, apparently: for a long time it watched me watching it, and it didn’t for a second make a move to hide its head in its shell. And did I mention that it was big? I had visions of its fearless head stretching out on its long stretchy neck and snapping viciously at me as I made my first-ever attempt to help a turtle across the road. Of me doing something stupid like dropping it in fear, or because I’d been bitten. Of making things worse instead of better.

And then I did the sensible thing. I called Raymond.

Who would have been very happy to dash off to Riggs Road and move that turtle – but couldn’t, because the wasp-spraying guy (that’s a whole other saga; some instalments here and here) was to come at some point today, and he had to stay at the Manse until that happened. But he made me feel better by pointing out that Riggs Road isn’t all that busy, and that surely the turtle would get to the other side all right.

But it didn’t.

I took the same route home from work this evening. There, on the side of Riggs Road, was what had to be my turtle – dead. I was practically in tears. It was my fault. I drove on, and then I turned around and drove back. Whether it was to be sure I’d seen correctly (maybe it wasn’t really dead?), or to pay my respects, I’m not sure. But anyway, there the poor turtle was, dead. Flies buzzing around, some mess, some smell. The same beautiful creature who just nine hours earlier had stared me down while I watched from my car, when she looked brave and assured about her crossing-the-road mission. When she filled me with confidence that she’d make it and be okay. When I failed her utterly by chickening out from trying to help when deep down I knew I should, no matter how big and snappy she was.

Poor turtle. Poor, poor turtle.

I felt miserable as I carried on home. But you know what? I got a second chance. Life is good that way.

When I was almost home, just a couple of kilometres west of Queensborough, I came upon another turtle. It was just starting to make its way across the road. It was very small and very scared; it hid its head as soon as I approached on foot, having stopped the car, donned my turtle gloves, and determined to make up for lost turtles.

And I quickly got it across the road, all the while telling it what a good and brave turtle it was:

Turtle safely on south side of Queensborough Road

My second turtle of the day, safely moved to the south side of Queensborough Road – the direction she had been heading in.

So yeah, today I saved a turtle. I just wish I had saved two.

4 thoughts on “One life lost, one life saved

  1. I always love a painter. You can even pet them. Smooth shell and light under bodies. You can pick them up and they will never bite you. A snapper with its rugged surface and sharp edges you do have to be careful.. pick them up from the very back of their shell near the tail with two fingers if need be. Their necks can come out and almost reach back that far. Or better yet keep a little shovel spade in your car if you want to pick up a snapper. But always take it to the direction they are traveling. I must say that we all while traveling on the road will avoid running over a turtle. I meet many on my daily route. My kids on the bus know when we approach one because I slow almost to a stop and straddle which ever way my vehicle can maneuver over them of course that is on back roads. We all check behind to see if he was okay. Main highways at 80 clicks you just avoid them. Over under or beside you drive accordingly. Or at least you would hope people do because they move so slow. There should be never any turtles killed on highways if the driver are paying attention or has a care. Those you see smashed are intended to be hit by drivers that you would not want to know anyway and that is the sad part. I love that you care so much Catherine and Raymond about our turtles. I hope we all can learn to be alert and kind to our hard shell friends. It is like any wild creature I meet each day. Why hurt something that has never hurt you. Intentionally!

    • Mk, I want you to know that I have just now placed a shovel in the trunk of my car, where it will stay permanently so I can follow your excellent advice about how to move larger turtles in need of help crossing the road. And yes, always in the direction they are heading. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  2. Hi Katherine,

    I agree with Mk, concerning the use of a shovel. I remember one time when I was near Stirling and I chanced upon a big snapper. He was coming away from the river. I stopped and used my shovel to gently scoop him up. As I approached the river, he jumped off and ran (as well as a turtle can run) right to the river and then he jumped in. If I hadn’t had the use of the shovel, I don’t think I would have handled him as I have heard the stories about the power of their bite.

    I know you’re very sad about the first turtle you encountered yesterday, and I share your feelings. It is never easy to see this sort of thing, especially if one has had some sort of interaction. However, please do not beat yourself up over this. Perhaps, even if you had safely moved the turtle, she might have attempted to cross the road again later. Still, I know how you’re feeling, as you would have hoped for her safety after you had left.

    Years ago, I had an unfortunate accident when I was driving down Hwy. 62 at night. A porcupine decided to cross the road as I was approaching. I braked and he swerved, but for some reason, he swerved back into my path before I had fully stopped. It bothered me for days, and I still think of it some 40 years later. So, I know what you’ve been feeling, but take comfort in knowing that you meant well — and another turtle must be very thankful for your help later that day.

    • Sash, thank you so much for these kind words. They really do mean a lot – especially because they come with your own similar experiences, right here in this part of the world. You know what you are talking about!

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