COLUMN: Keep an eye out for turtles

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If only the driver had seen the turtle sooner. I was driving to Rockport last week when I saw a car crush and kill a box turtle. I saw the passenger reach over and thump the driver in the head, not violently, but certainly in protest to what had happened.

I know the feeling of killing a turtle and it reminded me of a 2006 column, written about this time of the year. While this spring has certainly been late and less than determined, it has box turtles on the move and in harm’s way. So, please be mindful of their presence when driving.

The unfortunate box turtle was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had the turtle been able to talk last week, it might have said the same thing about me.

But the Eastern box turtle I clutched by the shell that warm day in 2006 wasn’t saying anything. It couldn’t even if it wanted. I’d just killed it.

I was discing a field and the turtle either went under a wheel or one of the sharp metal blades. I didn’t see the accident happen, but saw the turtle on my next pass in the field. I hopped off the tractor and looked down at the yellow and black shell. The turtle’s head was hidden inside.

Maybe it didn’t see trouble coming, I thought to myself.

I truly felt bad. Like a lot of people, I respect my seniors, and the turtle was probably years older than me. The reptiles easily live 20 or 30 years and judging by its size and weathered shell, this guy or gal was probably older.

I carried the reptile to the edge of the field and gave it an unceremonious but gentle toss into a patch of horseweeds. The heavy rain last week (2006) may have washed the turtle downstream. I’m sorry for that, too.

Back on the tractor, I contemplated how many times the turtle had made its way across that field — I read once where box turtles don’t wander far and people shouldn’t move them. The turtle lived its life, searching for food, sunning itself and looking for love, behind the scenes. I’d never noticed, until it was too late. I just hope it lived life to the fullest.

I’m not alone in trying to avoid bringing about the demise of old things, whether animals or plants. I’m a firm supporter in the belief that trees are a renewable resource and harvests of forests – despite the ragged appearance timber harvests create – are important. But I have an affinity for certain large trees and believe they should be protected.