|Posted on June 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM|
I'm taking a writing topic break to talk about one of my favorite summer time critters. No, not the shirtless construction guys .................. Ah, here we are, at the end of June. Now every time I’m on the road, my heart will be in overdrive right through until September.
However, you should know that I’m rather fond of my own skin. In fact, I’m a card carrying coward when it comes to physical danger. But every year, from June through September, I’m risking life and limb for a bunch of critters who don’t give, pardon my language, a rat’s ass about me.No, it’s not the school holidays – my days of stretched nerves with four kids running wild are over now.
If you’re a country person, you’ll know it’s turtle time. And that means stopping on all sorts of highways and byways to help a turtle cross the road safely. It’s important that you take them in the direction they’re going, otherwise they’ll turn right around and be back on the road. Most of them will be quite passive, some will wriggle and hiss, others will pee on you (it’s not actually pee, it’s part of the turtle ‘get-your-hands-off-me you-brute’ strategy. But it smells bad, anyway.)
It’s not just country areas, either. Some turtles are sophisticated city dwellers- but not sophisticated enough to manage crossing the roads. Read the story of a turtle that got high profile help in crossing the busy downtown streets of Winnipeg. To quote that old Red Rose tea ad, only in Canada, eh?
Of course, in the height of summer there are lots of busy highways and country roads, and stopping isn’t always that safe. I’m lucky that my DH is a wizard at the quick u-turn and screech back to help a turtle before it gets whacked by an oncoming car. Sometimes it is just a matter of stopping, leaping out and grabbing an unsuspecting turtle and whipping them across to safety on the other side. Other times, it’s blocking the lane with emergency flashers going, and me standing out waving at traffic to stop (and hoping they take me seriously) while he bravely tackles a large, grumpy snapper.
Sometimes we’re too late. Yep, I’m that woman crying her eyes out on the side of the road over the cracked and bleeding body of a turtle. No, I’m not really weird. Also I’m not alone – the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre has a list of over 100 volunteers who act as taxi drivers in relays to get injured turtles from far flung areas in to the Centre in Peterborough.
I love these little critters, from the tiny ones through to the great big, mean as a rattlesnake snappers. That’s me in the pic, with a super-hero of turtle lovers, Kate. Kate is one of the wonderful people who care for injured turtles at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, Peterborough, Ontario. Believe me, I’ve seen their work and they have performed what I’d call miracles of healing on these hard shelled creatures. That’s a problem turtles have – they’re seen as hard shelled but those carapaces aren’t strong enough to withstand even a glancing blow from a 3000 pound plus vehicle, let alone a direct hit or being run over. It can be hard to avoid a turtle meandering across the road, although I think some are following the same evolutionary trail as hedgehogs in Europe – they try to run when they hear a car bearing down on them!
One heartbreaking note is that some brainless weirdos - thankfully few - think it’s actually fun to run right over them deliberately. Sure, it’s not always easy to avoid them and you can’t risk an accident or endangering the lives of people. But turtles are quite old – some species at least 20 years - before they can procreate, so we need them to survive. At the other end of the scale, there are turtles that live to be very old and deserve a chance to enjoy their retirement.
There are many turtle species now on the endangered or watch list – you can read lots about turtles here on the KTTC website. Turtles are also suffering from climate change – extremes of weather can affect the gender of the new babies that are hatching, which means a shortage of guys or gals for the next generation. It also affects their habitat, with wetlands drying up – or being drained for building purposes.
Oh, and that question: Why did the turtle cross the road? The oldest of good reasons – love! They come up out of their ponds and swampy areas looking for a mate, and to find gravel or sandy spots to lay their eggs.
Categories: The Writing Life