Be extremely careful with your driving now . .
. we are smack-dab in the middle of catching turtles in their traveling
mode--not to mention some other wild amphibians. They tend to quit home-sweet-home
waters at this time year (ostensibly to nest on dry land) and they
travel the roads in seeking nest sites. Often enough, they are crushed
by auto and truck wheels at a time when they are in need of help just to
survive on this madhouse called earth.
A couple of years ago, for example, I was driving
west on a long, strait stretch of Highway 32 in Hamilton County at mid-afternoon
when traffic was light. A quarter of a mile ahead, I noticed a small critter
crossing the road and immediately slowed my car. Closer, I could see an
automobile coming from the other direction and possibly death for a beautiful,
six-inch painted turtle (non-edible).
Turning on my flashers, I stopped, exited my car
and hand-flagged the coming auto down. With the situation well in hand,
I carried Mrs.. Painted into a fallow field and went back to my car. The
driver of the other vehicle waived merrily as we both continued--a good
wildlife deed under our belts.
Unfortunately, the scenarios cannot always end
that happily. A few days later a four-inch box turtle lumbered across Highway
3 north of North Vernon when the traffic was so heavy and the berme so
narrow that I could not stop to try to help. Drive as I might, and turning
around as soon as possible, my efforts were of no avail. The turtle was
hit before I could get back there and my efforts to save it went for naught.
In the following week I picked up a 10-inch snapper
on a Boone County back road and escorted it to a creek near my garden.
But a day later a gravel truck hit a very big snapper (hardshell) so hard
that the carapace (hard upper shell) was cracked at the left-rear corner
and my efforts to save it were again thwarted. So I saved the meat, a last-ditch
All of this, hopefully, serves to make drivers
aware of the fact that a frog, toad, turtle, or some other critter (edible
or not) is well-worth saving . . . if it can be done without putting your
own life and limb (or those of somebody else) on the line. It would be
far better for a person to hit a critter than another vehicle or stationery
object. But still, we should revere wildlife much more than most
humans tend to these days.
The common snapping turtle, smooth softshell turtle,
spiny softshell turtle bullfrog, and green frog are regulated by the Department
of Natural Resources as game species with a daily limit of 25 and a possession
limit of 50. There are other regulations involving these species, but for
the most part box turtles (non-game, non-edible) are the big concern of
It is good that we have stringent laws on the
box turtle, and the non-game turtles and amphibians. Still, snapping turtles,
softshells, our chief food producers, seem to deserve more protection,
including on the roadways. I donít know how one goes about protecting the
critters on the roads, but an intense educational campaign would certainly
Turtles and other amphibians may be found on the
highways and byways at any time during the warm months. But they are most
prevalent at this time of year and again in late summer and fall when small
waterholes (primarily swamps, bogs and small streams) are drying up.
Although snappers and hardshells have a very long
neck, it is safe to pick them up by the tail, keeping the heads well away
from your body. But the bite of either a snapper or hardshell is brutal.
Once many years ago my boyhood friend and I found
18 eating-size snappers in an old swamp and tethered them by their tails
for the trip to town suspended from a strong pole that he carried on his
shoulder from the rear with me supporting the pole in front. The largest
turtle of the bunch was a foot or so immediately behind me.
As we entered the town, I noticed a fore-aft rocking
motion of the pole that set the turtles into a pendulum motion.
About the time I realized my friend was creating
a situation, the big turtle nailed me (only a bruise through my pants)
on the chubby cheek of my posterior. The turtles turned into a dishpan
of delicious meat for each
of our families and a stone crock for our neighbors.