For the rest of this month I thought it might be nice to have some diversion from the Covid-19 virus. So I decided to share some posts on animals I have met or loved.
Yesterday I was driving towards my home down an intermittently busy two lane road. I noticed a large lump moving along from the side of the road into the middle of my lane ahead of me. I passed on by avoiding a rather large turtle.
But then I started thinking about this strange looking turtle and was afraid someone might run over it! So I turned around in a nearby empty parking lot and went back to see what I could do. Fortunately there was another empty parking lot where I could pull off the road and hopefully wait for a good and safe time to cross the lane to where the turtle was.
Before I left my car something told me to take my cane that I use to walk with sometimes, so I listened to my inner voice and grabbed the cane. Very soon there were no cars coming. I went over to the turtle. He had raised, large spiky ridges on his back, a longish neck and a sharp looking beak on his snout. I figured it was a snapping turtle, which I vaguely remember seeing at the zoo or on TV. (Later I looked it up and he was indeed a snapping turtle with a beak that could break a stick! But he was an alligator snapping turtle.) Fascinating video of differences at bottom of page.
Even though he was an alligator snapping turtle, he was not the large size seen in the video. His shell was about a foot and a half long. But somehow I just had to try to help him get to safety. Gingerly I tried to pick him up from behind on either side of his shell. But he turned quickly in an effort to bite or intimidate me. He failed to bite me but succeeded at intimidating me! The turn was made by rotating on his tail as he spun around in an instant. I couldn’t believe my eyes but confirmed with someone who knew them better, that they could turn on their tails!!
His shockingly speedy movement to bite me was nothing like the usual image everyone thinks of when they think of a turtle moving. I had lifted him mainly to see how heavy he was but didn’t lift him more than an inch before I dropped him when he lunged at me. He probably weighed about 30 to 40 pounds. They can get up to 140 or 150 pounds!
So I regrouped, checked the traffic which was minimal and used my cane to try to nudge or encourage him to move back in the other direction. Again he lunged with his beak at my cane. I realized I did not have what it took to save him and began walking back to my car.
Suddenly I saw a North Carolina State Road truck driven by two men. One hopped out of the car. He wore a yellow vest like road repairmen or road workers wear. He was Hispanic and I tried to warn him that the turtle was dangerous.
First he tried the same thing I did and quickly put the turtle down when that sharp beak came at him. Then I saw the man do something that demonstrated to me that he had done this kind of thing before. He pulled off the yellow vest and used it to grasp the turtle further back on its shell. This turtle has claws that are sharp but more like a dog’s. These claws could do some damage!
But with the vest he was able to somehow contain the turtle, avoid the beak and carry the turtle down a hill possibly from where it had come but far from the road. I cheered and thanked him. By then there were two or three cars behind him and another two or three on my side of the road. We watched the whole event safely from our stopped vehicles.
I think there was a collective sigh of relief that the turtle was safe; the man was unharmed; and we could all proceed wherever we had to go. How many times in your life do you see such a rescue right before your eyes!
If you want to learn more, this video is incredible and shows the differences between a Common Snapping Turtle and an Alligator (or Loggerhead) Snapping Turtle. Fascinating stuff!!