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Turtle Time
In New York

I am a rescuer of turtles and this is turtle time Ö.. nesting time Ö.. the time when there are forlorn little lumps in the road which are actually female turtles trying to get from one side to the other looking for place to lay their eggs. This is the time when you must be constantly on turtle alert, ready to spot them, swerve past them, swing the car around narrowly missing someoneís mailbox, roar back to the turtle, position your vehicle to protect it, and leap into traffic to carry it to safety. You have to do it! There are few things more pitiful than this tiny creature creeping slowly across the hot asphalt of a busy thoroughfare infested by speeding vehicles one thousand times its size just to be able to start her family in a good neighborhood!

Most turtles are congenial. You pick them up and while apprehensive, they are cooperative. I once rescued a little city turtle who had gotten all the way across a busy highway, only to be met with a curb it couldnít navigate (despite the fact that turtles are pretty remarkable all-terrain-vehicles). It was literally on its hind legs, upright against the abutment, trying to find a way over. City turtles are particularly tough because of the traffic. Country turtles are easier in this regard and also because there are good places to carry them once you have them in hand. But, the country turtles are not always sociable box turtles, or painted turtles, but rather cranky snappers. Because Iím merely soft-hearted and not very well-informed I learned about snappers through experience finding one in the middle of an isolated roadway and discovering how truly ungrateful they are. This turtle would have happily taken my hand off, and the only way to get it to safety was to prod it with the rubber tip of a walking cane (thankfully in the trunk of the car) which it latched onto -- and held onto -- furiously so I could slide it along. That turtle was pretty good-sized, but the smaller snappers are more manageable, and while they may hiss and squirm can be carried Ö.. carefully Ö.. by holding on to either side of the rear of the shell. They say turtles are determined and without fear, and if carried in the wrong direction, will simply head into the road again. So Ö.. always carry your turtle in the direction itís facing, unless itís looking squarely up or down the road, in which case you have to check out destination options, try to think like a turtle, and then carry it where it wants to go, or youíll have to rescue it all over again!

I once attempted a rescue, but before I could get back to the turtle watched in horror as a young man in a jeep careened down the road and senselessly booted the poor thing into the underbrush. I put the victim in a shady spot and checked later, and discovering that he wasnít there had to hope his shell -- which had appeared intact -- had protected him. But, a few years back I came upon a very large turtle by the side of the road along a river in Massachusetts that someone had driven over, and just yesterday saw two small turtles -- one on the centerline of the road and one on the side -- that had been killed. The truth is itís pretty easy to avoid hitting a turtle, I mean they donít exactly run in front of the car.

I donít know how you sensitize people to the needs of other creatures in the world. In this case, maybe by encouraging them to humanize the turtle experience. I mean, probably every one of us is a turtle at one time or another Ö.. we can only hope when the time comes that we find ourselves trying desperately to cross a dangerous road, rather than driving heartlessly over us, some kind soul will stop and carry us to the other side.

We'll tell you what we're doing here... then maybe you'll tell us what you're doing there.

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