I walked a box turtle across 345 yesterday. It was a Florida box turtle, a variety of
the eastern box turtle. The eastern box turtle has yellow splotches on its shell.
The Florida variety has yellow streaks like lightning, across its shell.
I`ve been walking turtles across the road for at least 30 years. The sight of those plodding creatures, stuck on the yellow line, peering out of their shells, gets to me.
I`ve handled several different varieties - box, soft-shell, snappers, terrapins, and
gopher tortoises - to name a few.
Florida Box Turtle
The gophers are tricky and have their own mind. When I see one now,
stumping down the edge of the road, I pass by and wish it luck. I think
they prefer walking along the white line to plowing through the thick
vegetation on the shoulder. The main danger to them, aside from a careless
driver, is that someone will stop and take them home for a fricassee.
My most memorable turtle walk took place years ago on a torrid August day.
I live in Rocky Hammock. I was taking my kids, both in CK Elementary at the
time, to the beach. I`d checked the tide chart and it was high tide. We were going for
On state road 24, just before that swampy area with the swamp maples, saw grass, cattails, and blooming mallows, I saw a large lump on the yellow line. I slowed the
old VW Rabbit down and, yup, it was a turtle.
There was no one else on the road. I pulled over on the shoulder right next to
that hapless reptile, which was on its back, roasting.
"Do NOT leave the car," I warned the kids as I hopped out to see if that broiled
turtle was even alive.
It was. As I approached it, one foot twitched - and right at that moment
I realized that it was a snapping turtle - a sizable alligator snapper.
Just about then, I heard a commotion and muffled voices coming from the car.
I looked back and saw both of the kids, frantically rolling the windows down
and yelling, "Mom! Don`t touch it!! It`s a snapping turtle!!"
Alligator Snapping Turtle
I reassured them that the turtle was in no shape to snap. Then I gave the rear end of that turtle a good kick and it skidded over to the shoulder. Another kick sent it to the edge of the shoulder where there was, fortuitously, a large pool of water.
One of the turtle`s legs moved a bit. I shoved that reptile to the edge of the
pool, gingerly stuck the toe of my sandal under its steaming shell, and flipped
that snapper into the water. I almost expected to see steam rising.
There was just enough water to cover the entire turtle with the exception of the bony scutes that stuck up from the top of that prehistoric creature. I stood there for a moment
to see if there were any more signs of life.
Tentatively, a knobby nose began to poke out from its shell.
We drove off feeling righteous.