Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Road Hazards

I have to resist the impulse to pull over and move every box turtle I see in the middle of the road. Given that I work in a pole barn in the middle of nowhere, and take ten miles of winding country road to get to work every day, this has become a regular occurence. Box turtles move faster than some turtles; compared to a large snapping turtle in the road they can really book. But their average speed still tops out somewhere between slow and roadkilled. So I find myself wanting to rescue every one of them. The one we passed today was particularly difficult to ignore, as his little rubbery neck was stretched out as high as he could manage, and he was looking around intently as though he had missed something. He had. It was my coworker's blue Prius skipping by him.

Apparently, box turtle mating season begins in late spring. This fact explains the sudden exodus of the box turtle from the safety of underbrush to the danger of the highway. In researching box turtle mating habits (I was bored), I came across this quote: Box turtles are extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. These characteristics, along with a propensity to get hit by cars, make the box turtle a species particularly susceptible to human-induced problems.

And now I feel guilty for ignoring the plight of the box turtle. But not as guilty as the person who posted photos of her box turtles mating should feel. Even stupid reptiles deserve a few moments (and in the case of the box turtle, apparently several hours) of genuine privacy. Plus, how weird would it be to perch beside your box turtles' enclosure with a camera while the two of them went at it? Slowly?

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