Turtle Trauma

By DARA A. PFEIL | Sep 12, 2018
Photo by: Leslee Ganss Another diamondback terrapin was found run over by a car on Cedar Run Dock Road in July. It’s a sight that can be prevented to some degree if people take the time to move the turtles out of roadways.

I’ve had the privilege of coming to Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island with my family for the summer for 20 years. Last month I was out running and on my way back through Loveladies I noticed up ahead in the road an object. As I got closer, I realized it was a turtle that had just gotten run over by a car.

It still lay in the road somewhat off to the side, but within distance of another strike from a car tire. As I ran by I blurted out, “Oh my God, a turtle!”

It was fairly large. There were three people walking in front of me and one of the ladies turned around and said in a very uncaring voice, “Yeah, and it’s not dead yet.” I made a grimace, raised my eyebrows and kept running.

Yet I kept thinking about the turtle and the fact that it was probably going to get hit again. So, I turned around and ran as fast as I could to it.

“Please be dead,” I thought. Ugh. It was alive, lying in a pool of blood, its shell horribly shattered. It didn’t look good.

I picked it up and moved it off to the side of the road in the shade. Then I ran home. Standing in my kitchen, I could not stop thinking about the turtle. So I jumped in my car and went to the local police station to see if they could help. They couldn’t.

I drove back to my house and grabbed a box and gloves. Then I drove back to the turtle. Please be dead. It was still alive. Standing over the turtle, I was perplexed about what to do. Who would help me? Where could I take it?

I left the turtle and drove to Barnegat Light, where I knew there was a woman who runs a hatchery for turtles with volunteers. I pulled up and jumped out of the car. After explaining my story, she said, “Yes, bring the turtle to me.”

Oh thank God someone was willing to help. I drove back to the turtle. Please be dead. It was still alive. I was so upset, just looking at its injuries. The front legs and head were moving a little, but that was about it. I put the turtle in the box.

Meanwhile, people were walking by and totally ignoring me. No one stopped. No one offered to help. I arrived back at the turtle lady’s house and ran out of the car with my box. I opened the box. She and her volunteers gasped. It was a fatal injury: crushed shell, broken back, paralyzed legs.

The turtle lady said to me, “Thank you for being so kind and trying to help.” I had tears in my eyes. She took the turtle away.

The turtle is gone. The death of that turtle has moved me. And I have thought about that turtle every day since the incident. I guess what bothers me the most is not that it died. I understand that cars accidentally hit animals all the time. What bothers me is the lack of concern and the unwillingness to help from bystanders. I’m still bewildered that no one was interested in this beautiful animal.

The turtle was a female diamondback terrapin, probably trying to find a place to lay her eggs, just going about her business, enjoying this beautiful island. What a senseless loss of life!

If you see a turtle crossing a road, please move it off to the side in the direction that it was going. It’s really not that hard. And it feels good to do something right.

Dara A. Pfeil, of Fair Haven, N.J., summers in Harvey Cedars.

Editor’s Note: Anyone who encounters an injured turtle can call Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township or a local veterinary office for help. Information about diamondback terrapins can be found at projectterrapin.org, the website for Project Terrapin, run by the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science in Manahawkin.







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