Spring is upon us, which is wonderful, but it is always a little bittersweet for me as I know wildlife will start being more on the move. It pains me to see all the wildlife injured on the roads, but turtles are especially heartbreaking.
About seven years ago, I had an experience that began a long journey to help turtles. I was driving one day and hit a turtle in the road. He was thrown around the road like a hockey puck, and bounced off the wheel of a truck in front of me before I hit him. I figured the turtle, which I named Tommy, was dead, but I think it is disrespectful to leave dead animals in the road, so we turned around to move him to the side.
He was crushed into a hundred pieces, so I was especially shocked when he peeked his head out of his shell. I could not believe it. I rushed him to the vet to be humanely euthanized. There I learned that, because of their slow metabolism, turtles normally suffer extremely slow deaths after being hit. It takes hours – sometimes days – for them to slowly bleed out.
The next day I returned the location where I hit Tommy and found countless turtles hit along one side of the road. I started returning every day and continued to find more and more casualties to bring to the vet.
I could not stand by and let this continue. Tommy’s death sparked a four-year journey working with various groups, such as animal welfare organizations, the owners of the property surrounding the area (city and military), and various private companies to help implement a solution.
Since the implementing of a solution in 2012, we have saved over 750 turtles from a painful, slow death. It was a very tough journey, and I admit there were days I wanted to give up. But, in the end, it was well worth the fight.
So the next time you see a turtle hit on the side of the road, please pull over and take the time to see if he or she is still alive.
- The best way to tell if a turtle is still alive is to pinch his/her foot and see if this causes any reaction on their face. Also, take a small stick and touch their eye to see if you get a reaction.
- Almost all vets will euthanize injured wildlife for no cost. I find they are always so appreciative that you took the time to stop and help.
I have frequently been traveling, encountered an injured animal, mapped the nearest vet, and took the animal to them. It is important we don’t turn a blind eye. They get injured crossing our roadways which have been built over their habitats. The least we can do is not let them suffer needlessly.
If you would like to read more about the “Operation Turtle” project I did, you can read the full story here.