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© Lora Denis
Ontario Nature celebrates the nature volunteers who have their boots in the bogs, eyes on wildlife, fingers on keyboards and much more! Our guest blogger this week, Susan Irving, shares a tale from her time spent volunteering with Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre…
I am longtime volunteer at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Napanee. My preferred activity there involves caring for injured native turtles. These animals are brought to us because they have been severely injured by vehicles as they cross roadways that divide their wetland homes.
The snapping turtle in this story had been injured on the roadway early this spring, when she was searching for a good spot to lay her eggs. She recovered well and we decided to send her back home, still carrying her eggs, so that she could finish the important job that almost (but didn’t, thanks to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre) cost her life.
What do you do with a 20-pound snapping turtle in your trunk who insists that the view is better from the back seat? This was my predicament as I was en route to release a very pregnant turtle back into her home wetland.
We started off well. She was safely (and calmly) stowed in a big bin in the trunk of my Subaru hatchback. The cargo cover was snugly closed, giving her a nice dark refuge for the journey.
Before long, however, she became quite agitated. I worried that she might lay all 35 of her eggs before we made it to the wetland. Imagine my reaction when, upon looking in my rearview mirror, I saw the cargo cover showing a large moving pointy bulge. When I checked again, I found a large snapper head peering out from under the cargo cover and I saw the determined look in those shiny black eyes.
Time to intervene. I pulled over and used the only thing at hand – my snow brush – to suggest to the turtle that I preferred that her beak remain below the cargo cover. I also called for back up. My partner agreed to drive our vehicle. I moved to the back seat and, with the snow brush, reminded our girl that lying low was the best idea at this time.
As we progressed, things deteriorated. The discomfort from the snow brush became a mere annoyance as she pushed her head increasingly further into the back seat.
Panicking a little, we stopped at a stranger’s house. I fashioned a makeshift lid for her bin. The owner found some rope. We tied knots – many knots! Houdini would have been challenged to escape from this bin. And then we drove off again.
Within an alarmingly short span of time, however, Ms. Houdini had pushed her way out and was using her powerful claws in an attempt to join me in the back seat. The rest of the trip was quite stressful for the three of us.
We finally found a good release spot on private property. The owners were enjoying a “happy hour” at the water’s edge but welcomed us like V.I.P.’s. While being carried in her bin to the shoreline, Ms. Houdini demonstrated both poise and composure.
It was a perfect shoreline. The turtle pushed off strongly into the shadowy depths and disappeared.
Another satisfying day as a volunteer in wildlife conservation…
Would you ask Susan Irving to contact me via email.
I live in Kingston, and I’m a member of Ontario Nature. I live on the edge of Lake Ontario Park – municipal park along the shores of Lake Ontario.
I’d like to discuss with her some ideas for funding projects in the City of Kingston. I know she will have ideas of where money can best be spent.
If you are not allowed to make this contact for me, PLEASE LET ME KNOW
Susan can be reached here at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre: https://sandypineswildlife.org/?page_id=5
I am gratified with the caring and interest shown by the comments and replies.
The turtle in the story had been given an x-ray, which allowed us to determine the number of eggs she was carrying.
Thank you for taking such good care of this turtle! I am sure that you have done it many times for many different animals. Please, do not give up – what you are doing is imperative for both turtles and people. We all need each other – even if people many times think that we will do fine without this or that animal or other living things. We will NOT – we ALL need each other ! ! !
I found your account to be a very interesting read. It puzzles me however, that she still has her eggs after a time of rehab. I thought snapping turtles layed their eggs in June. If she was looking for a nest site when she was injured, how does she still have eggs now and how did you know how many she had?
The author did not send us the blog until late July but this story is from the spring. The turtle’s rehabilitation may have been relatively quick considering she still had her eggs. We don’t know if she was monitored post-release.
Susan Irving is my hero.
Kingston and Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre are lucky to have her dedicate her time to turtles and nature here. She is making a real difference, helping species at risk continue to survive. Lucky turtles. Lucky us.
A good story with a happy ending. I have often encountered snappers on the road and have successfully moved them off on a small piece of carpet. Alternately if you can induce them to bit a object like a snow brush they will hang on while you drag them off the road. I know people who pick them up but not for the faint of heart.
Thank-you so much for this wonderful report. It was well-written and had a happy ending (love these). Congratulations on your successful effort!!!
Your gripping tale of care and high drama made for enjoyable reading. Having recently watched my husband help a Snapping Turtle to cross a road in wet weather, and seeing how difficult it was to handle the reptile cautiously but firmly in such circumstances, I know how determined, and belligerent, a snapper can be! Well done on the successful outcome, and thank you for the work you do as a volunteer.