Sunday, July 30, 2017
I was driving on a country road -- actually a state road but around here that doesn't exactly mean Route 66 -- and there was a big snapping turtle just sitting in the travel lane. The car ahead of me swerved to miss it and went on its way, but I stopped and put on my double flashers.
The turtle wasn't even trying to cross the road, it was just basking. The road was crossing a swampy area but there was a culvert, so if it really wanted to get to the other side it didn't have to climb up onto the asphalt. I picked it up, which made it very unhappy. It extended its claws and thrashed its head from side to side, but it was, you know, in a shell so it couldn't get at me. I carried it across and set it on the bank. Had I not done that, it would be dead.
The principal predator of most wildlife around here is the motor vehicle. For some reason I can't really figure out, Connecticut is not among the highest risk states for colliding with a deer. According to State Farm insurance, only about 1 in 300 of us hit a deer in 2016. But believe it or not, in Pennsylvania 1 out of every 67 drivers did, and in West Virginia the number was 1 in 41. At that rate, in a decade you have a 25% chance. Two hundred people die in these collisions every year, but obviously the deer get by far the worst of it.
Wikipedia has a whole article on road kill. It turns out that there is good evidence that some people deliberately hit reptiles. "[R]esearch in 2007 found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit reptile decoys masquerading as snakes and turtles. "Indeed, several drivers were observed speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit the reptiles".:142 Male drivers hit the reptile decoys more often than female drivers.:140–141 On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys.[4
So I'm in the virtuous 3.4%. I would have hoped not to be so alone.
*For those of you who are too young, Churchy was a talking turtle who was a friend of the talking possum Pogo. Strangely, there was only one example of most species in the swamp. Pogo's best friend was an alligator named Albert who for some reason refrained from eating the other animals. Pogo's occasional love interest was a French skunk named Mademoiselle Hepzibah. I didn't know there were skunks in France, and if there are, they probably seldom emigrate to a swamp in Georgia. Species of which there was more than one example included bats -- there were 3 of them -- Miz Beaver and her children, and Porky Porcupine who was sometimes visited by his uncle Baldwin.
Pogo had much to say of great wisdom, but most famously: