Turtle mama drama

One veggie burger and one Amstel Light into a barbecue with a passel of Irish guys and my running buddy, I was ready to go home last night. It was 9:15 p.m. on a Saturday, and yes, I am usually that fly, but I had also been up since 5:45 a.m. to proctor the SATs, so I was tired.

The good thing was, Irish dudes live only a few blocks from me, so I was able to walk the .6 miles home. As I was doing so, passing Golden Cleaners and a liquor store, I saw two cars stopped in the middle of the right lane, their hazards blinking.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Jersey, where people get into fender benders all the time and wait 45 minutes blocking traffic over a scraped hubcap on their Saabs, but as I got closer, I saw something else.

Common Snapping Turtle 2courtesy of Toronto Zoo. Thanks, TZ!

A snapping turtle in the middle of the lane. Now, I’m no naturalist, but I pretty darn sure figured out it was a snapping turtle when I saw guy number one, a youngish dude with a BMW, try to nudge it with his foot. The turtle was not pleased, and whipped her head around in a very un-turtlelike way and tried to eat his foot off, or so it appeared.

My response to this, was, of course, gifted:

“Is that a turtle?” I asked.


So the three of us, youngish BMW dude, older guy with SUV and I stand outside the liquor store and stare at the really quite helpless but also aggressive turtle in the road. We are, at this point, across the street from a pond, and all agree that the turtle needs to get into the pond, but no one, and I can’t blame them for not reaching down and picking the thing up, because hey – I like having 10 fingers too.

SUV dude gets an idea – we’ll nudge the turtle over to the pond. He grabs his umbrella out of the car and tries to push the turtle towards the pond. This is largely unsuccessful. Youngish dude heads into the liquor store to call the police (it’s a quiet town, y’all), but the Morristown police, in all their audacity, say a snapping turtle in the middle of the road is “not an emergency.”

We are stuck, with fear of being snapped on one side and middle-class environmentalist guilt on the other.

Now, I’d say I would be the most unhelpful person in this situation, but that role was soon usurped by minivan guy, who drives past the scene and shouts out the window, “Don’t go anywhere! My kids want to see it!”

Minivan guy parks, and his two 8-year-olds and wife hop out of the car. They also, incidentally, recognize SUV dude and make pleasantries.

I honestly have no idea how long we might have stood there, at an impasse, had not this mysterious man in some kind of HVAC uniform walked out of nowhere and announced several things:

1. It was a female turtle, and she was laying her eggs.
2. No, you can’t pick her up by her shell.
3. You got to do it by her tail.

And, I’ll be goddammed, but HVAC guy, after a little bit of maneuvering, yanks the mama turtle up by her tail, walks across the street, and plunks her into the pond.


(I ran about 7 miles yesterday after the SATs. It was hot and I really missed my Garmin. My knees were sore afterward, but I iced and rolled assiduously last night and am going to tempt fate with a longish run right now. I’ll rest when I’m dead, or tomorrow.)


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