About 15 years ago, while driving on 116 near Umass, I spotted a snapping turtle lumbering across the road so, of course, I stopped. I was only 20 and this being my first snapping turtle rescue, I wasn’t making much progress. We were locked in a dance of mirroring fierceness. Cars were whizzing around us and soon a cop pulled over, shouting at me, “What are you doing?!” After explaining the obvious, he offered his cynical take I will never forget, “the snapping turtles don’t stop for you, so you shouldn’t stop for the snapping turtles!”
Last week careening down Route 2 mid-state, where the lanes are double and busy with traffic, I saw what looked like a hubcap in the middle of the road. Great, I’ll just center my car so my wheels don’t hit it, I thought, as it was a bit too close to change lanes. Suddenly I saw what was actually a huge snapping turtle thrashing his head in a battle pose just as my low-rider Prius made audible contact with his shell. There was no shoulder to pull over, no looking back, just that image of the turtle with no chance, going down fighting.
I have a great deal of room in my heart for creatures whose instincts are to bite me and never let go, hitting that turtle broke my heart. I feel responsible as part of the human community that’s fragmented wildlife habitat and disrupted migratory patterns with roads and dams. Serendipitously, there was a whole article in the NYT a couple days ago about this very problem, worth reading and full of intriguing animal crossing footage. Linking landscapes is a Massachusetts initiative endeavoring to answer the need for safer wildlife traverses and does work in multiple ways to this end. They collect roadkill data on their website to best identify where to focus their efforts.
Felix, my roadkill-processing-mentor (and long time friend) always stops for the animals but most notably the dead ones, principally because they may not be dead (and need help), but also may be good food, or perhaps be better off relocated so others can eat them in safety. It’s a good practice, and a modicum of penance for the tragedy of roads. Thanks to Felix's intrepid ways, I’ve had snapping turtle soup before.
I remember a friend telling me that a friend told her that when she sees a slain animal on the roadside, she imagines that animal as a baby, curled up next to their mother. This morning I woke up to this little video from Greg. It was a baby snapping turtle just hanging out on the bike path. Greg helped him to the side and took in the turtle’s impossible cuteness at this size. The little one was still as you’ll see in the video, quite fearless for a turtle. It felt like a good omen.
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.