Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Why does the turtle cross the road?

It's June! In June a majority of our native turtle lay their eggs. Female turtles are very finicky about where they lay their eggs. The soil has to be just right...not to wet, not to dry, easy to dig etc. They should be finicky because the soil and climactic influences determined whether her eggs will hatch or not. Personally I also view it as the only maternal kindness she bestows on ther offspring. After she lays her eggs she leaves and is not there to see them hatch.

The answer to the question: Why does the turtle cross the road is easy. To lay eggs!

That means that the vast majority of turtles now crossing roads are females full of eggs. The genetic loss if/when these animals get hit on roads is enormous considering that 7 out of 8 of Ontario's native turtle are considered SARO (Species at Risk Ontario) species. 

Personally I find it difficult to see a majestic creature such as a turtle succumb to something as mundane as getting hit by a vehicle. 

Sometimes I wonder about people. Recently a friend brought me a BIG Snapping Turtle who had been hit on the road. This big boy had been hit not once, but twice on a road that is mostly quiet. 

My thought is: How do you miss a huge 'boulder' in the middle of the road? It's not like turtles suddenly jump out into traffic...Anyhow, this poor fellow was hurt bad.

As I was treating him for his injuries his eyes seem to stare right into mine and seem to ask the question 'Why?'. Why am I in such agony? Why am I here?

Snapping Turtle after a collision with a car. He did not recover
My examination revealed some serious injuries to his head. With fluids and pain meds on board I decided to take him to the vet for some x-rays. Unfortunately the impact had done some irreparable damage to his skull and between the vet and I we decided that euthanizing him would be the  best option.

I am sure I don't have to tell you not to run over turtles,  but the question I get asked the most is what do I do when I see a turtle crossing the road. You help it cross safely! However your main concern first and foremost should be your own safety. First ensure that it is safe for you to pull over and get out of your car. 

The other thing you should know is that you always cross a turtle in the direction they are going and you should never take a turtle and move it to a location that you deem more suitable. That is not only illegal, but does not help the turtle at all. Don't forget that turtles can bite and scratch.

This video shows you how to best help a turtle cross the road:

When you see a turtle who has already been injured your best bet is to put it in a box with some wet towels and get it to a facility licensed for turtles as fast as possible (never transport an injured turtle in water, they might drown). Turtles actually have a pretty good survival rate after getting injured, but they do require treatment from a person who is experienced and skilled enough.

At Hobbitstee we are authorized for turtles and we not only deal with injured turtles, but we also recover eggs from recently deceased turtles. We will hatch these eggs and return the hatchtlings to where the deceased turtle was found. By doing this we can reduce the genetic impact on the turtle population as a whole by the loss of life of that one female turtle.   

This summer please keep an eye out for turtles and help us help them!

A Midland Painted Turtle who was also hit on the road. He did make a full recovery and was successfully released.

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