terrapins on our turf

This suburb is full of surprises. On the way to pick up my daughter’s friend, my three kids and I are piled, as usual, in the trusty 10 year old mini-van. We are driving down our own typical suburban street, USA. Houses line up with manicured lawns, built exactly 12 feet apart in the ’70’s and ’80’s. There are sun soaked sidewalks running down oak-edged street. Suddenly, my middle child says, “Mom, I just saw a big turtle taking a walk.”

Uh? I say, “Maybe it was a rock or something.”
“No,” she insists, “It’s a turtle.”
I turn the trusty mini-van around and come to a stop next to the hot white concrete. There, just walking along the sidewalk like an old man on a casual stroll, was a 15 inch long turtle. It’s wrinkled neck and crusty legs moving in a camel-like rhythm. We all scramble out of the van and surround the poor animal. It stops and all it’s limbs contract toward it’s shell.
“Where did it come from? Should we try to take it back to water? Is it all right walking through the neighborhood?” I snap open my cell and call animal control via 411.
We are such “city folk” that we are totally stumped about this.
Animal control won’t come unless there is an animal in danger or a dangerous animal – as in cats, dogs, and rabid squirrels. This is none of the above, according to them. They give me the number for the local Wildlife Emergency Refuge Association…who knew there was a such a thing?
My daughter is fumbling with the pen to write as I call out the phone number from the lady on the other end of the line.
Then, one of us . . . I’m embarrassed to say that out of three kids under 13 and me standing there — it’s ME, that really wants to touch the little guy. I put my finger gingerly forward onto the back of it’s shell. Suddenly, his head shoots out toward the same middle child who saw him in the first place, and snaps loud and hard, making us all jump back two feet.
Ok, Then. I guess this is a “snapping” turtle.
The local Wildlife Emergency Refuge Association lady puts me on hold for about 5 minutes, while we cautiously widen our circle around the now slightly threatening creature. When she comes back on, she says the expert on local wildlife in the office says these turtles come out of the ponds to lay their eggs and will eventually find it’s way back to it’s habitat. Don’t worry about it. Leave the poor thing alone.
Feeling let down somehow, I thank her and hang up. I reluctantly relay this information to the kids and herd them away from terrapin and into the van. We discuss the possible locations of egg laying that would not meet with a lawnmower, weed-wacker, sniffing dog, or other such calamity.
As we drive away, I am struck and reminded of the normalcy of nature and weirdness of how we, as humans have relegated it to the edges of our lives – only for good looks, vacation, and maybe a pretty photograph. There is a pond just outside the neighborhood and I suspect this is where turtle came from and will hopefully return.

1 Comment

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One response to “terrapins on our turf

  1. We had an enormous snapping turtle come up from the creek a month ago. One of the neighborhood dads came in his red truck and picked it up by it's tail (which caused it to emit a frightfully foul odor from it's rear) and toted it off to a nearby pond. The kids wanted to show it to the dog but having grown up with snapping turtles in TX I persuaded them that it was NOT a good idea.

    Powell, OH

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