Sep 14 2009
I’ve been disheartened to fail to be in the right place at the right time to save the lives of several turtles this year. The only good news is that there were fewer dead turtles and frogs on the road this year than last in my neck of the woods. So when Shawn Orbanic sent me an email late last week telling me of his extraordinary turtle rescue, I was overjoyed. And the most amazing aspect of his story is that he was able to save 17 snapping turtle hatchlings. I’ll leave Shawn to tell the story:
Back on June 8 I came across this large mother snapping turtle laying her eggs on the edge of the parking lot at my office. (The office is right next to a river and you cross the river to enter it.) This is the second time I’ve caught her laying eggs in the last 4 years. So, I marked my calendar to start watching for the hatchlings between 80 and 90 days later. This morning as I was walking in I found a hatchling making his way across the parking lot—in the wrong direction! So, I picked him up to move him to the river, and quickly found another, and another (the third one had succumbed to the 54-degree weather). I moved them down the bank to the river and the two survivors quickly swam away. When I got back up the bank I found three more wandering around the lot. I grabbed a box and started searching the entire area around the nest. In the end I found a total of 15 and only the one had died. All were released to the river and swam off or immediately took to hiding in the rocks.
Later in the day, Shawn wrote again to say he’d found three more hatchlings looking for the river, and he gave them a lift, as well, bringing his total to 17 little snappers given a new lease on life. Shawn shot photos of the mother snapper in June, and then of her children late last week. Some of the photos are a bit blurry because he used a cell phone camera, but the message comes through loud and clear—these youngsters would likely have died if Shawn hadn’t been on the look-out for them and lent a helping hand.
Here’s the mother snapper laying eggs on the lawn:
It’s hard work being a turtle, and even snappers are vulnerable when laying eggs.
Nothing much deters her, and her efforts are rewarded with the hatching of her children:
It’s a wet morning, and the babies are still covered in mud from digging out of the ground. Look how tiny they are:
They’re keen, though, and are looking forward to beginning their lives out in the river:
Here are others waiting for their taxi ride to the river, courtesy of Shawn:
Safe at last, the hatchlings are in their natural element:
Of course, the natural world presents plenty of risks and hazards for young turtles, but with luck, these hatchlings will live to a ripe old age. They’ve gotten a good start.
Learn more about how to be a turtle taxi by reading our tips in “Help Turtles Cross Roads.” Thanks go out to Shawn Orbanic for saving the turtles and for letting us all share in the pleasure. And what about you? Have you saved any turtles lately? Send us your story and some photos if you can, and we’ll include them to our “Turtle Portrait Gallery.”