How did the snapping turtle cross the road? Sl-ow-ly

She was a beauty. Her shell smooth with green velvet, her eyes expressing what her impressive size underscored — she had spent many a year growing into the wise, immense snapping turtle who now sat squarely in the middle of the road. As my family came upon her in our car she did not react, except to place a serene gaze over us all.

Clearly, this was going to take a while.

With regards to nature we are either doers, or passers. I am a doer, sometimes to the detriment of my family's plans.

I feel it important to escort grouses, turkey, a wide variety of amphibians, the occasional child, dogs, the biggest spider I ever saw while in California, cows, snapping turtles and all their reptilian relatives to a safer space than wherever I initially find them. I know the how to the proverbial "why did the chicken cross the road?" joke and if you too are a doer, well then you know just what I mean.

On this particular afternoon my family not only supported my habit, but before I had even said a peep they were already stopping the car and exploring the trunk to see what tools we had to help with the situation. Like I said, she was a beauty.

This wasn't my first snapping turtle escort, but her size blew all other experiences out of the water. The old systems were not going to work with this gal. How did I know she was a female? I didn't. I am totally winging it and you should not take my word for it.

Something that present in the world needs to be named, though, so I deemed her a girl and for the interim of our time together called her Morla. The educated guess of her gender came from it being springtime coupled with the fact she had visibly made her way from a sandy stream bank on the opposite side of the road. I spent a little time over there looking for a disturbed area where eggs may have been laid, but did not find any.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is in support of citizens moving creatures such as snapping turtles to safety areas as long as it does not put the citizen or the turtle at risk. We found Morla on a country road so the stakes of vehicle chaos were low. Two cars passed while we did our work: both cars stopped to see if we needed any help and both drivers were folks we knew. Oh how I love rural Vermont!

I refused to allow us to pick her up by the tail and move her because I had read that such movement could cause damage to the turtle. (Editor's note: Tina is correct.) We were all in agreement there anyway because since the neck is practically as long as the shell, none of us wanted to risk being nabbed by her ambitious beak. We had no shovel, cloth, or little red wagon, but we had a whole countryside full of sticks so we scoured the roadside to find the kindest, most utilitarian versions for the job.

Morla was uncertain that she needed any help with moving and took it upon herself to let us know.

We explained to her that immobility was simply not an option. She would be hit by a car which would damage both the car and herself.

Eventually she relented; the relaxed look in her eyes giving way to caution and uncertainty.

I would steal her dignity to say she trusted us, but she deserves creed as the wise soul she is for following our directions nonetheless.

So for the better part of a half hour my husband and I gently prodded her to move forward, which is hard to do without coming off looking like someone who cares diddly squat about the turtle and is actually just waving a big stick around to scare her.

We persevered. Morla moved. We continued. Morla stood up on all four legs and open wide her mouth, revealing her faultless turtle tongue.

We took a break. She motioned us back over with her claw whose nails were longer than my dog's.

We did this dance until she was safely across the white line of the road and down into the damp woods. With a swish of her alligator tail she was well on her way, her serene gaze having returned to the wisest face in those woods that day.

Tina Weikert of Bondville is a regular contributor to Get Outside.


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