Kevin LaRue is a long-time Loudoun County resident and well-known local Century 21 realtor, but LaRue also has an alternate identity; he is locally known as the Turtle Whisperer.
Crisscrossing the county in the service of home buyers and sellers, LaRue keeps a keen and watchful eye to the road…especially this time of year. He is looking for TURTLES!
As the temperatures begin to warm up even the slightest, our native turtles are emerging from hibernation. We share their shrinking habitat, our neighborhoods zigzagging through their primal paths, forcing these drowsy reptiles to cross our roads to…well, to get to the other side. These road warriors are in great peril this time of year, so they could literally use a helping hand.
For LaRue, it began with a simple rescue…the kind of rescue many of us have achieved at one time or another: he came upon a journeying turtle in the road, he stopped his car and made sure he was safe to exit his vehicle, and he transported a healthy young turtle from the danger of the road to the safety of the roadside.
In a short period of time, LaRue encountered another–and another, and another. It seemed LaRue had developed an eye for these gentle creatures, and once he knew what to look for, it became a part of his commute to protect them. In Loudoun County, he has saved over 50 turtles in recent years, and he wants you to join him.
As a means of sharing his encounters, LaRue began posting his turtle rescues on Facebook. Soon, there were so many success stories that he organized a special “Turtle Whisperer –Those That Were Saved” photo collection just to feature the diversity of species, size, and rescue location of the turtles he found and saved. He had no idea how inspiring this would be.
Just by doing this good deed and sharing the experience with others (ah, the wonders of social media) LaRue has prompted others to keep an eye to the road for turtles. People have even reciprocated by sharing their own turtle rescues and photos on his Facebook page. In this way, and perhaps unbeknownst to him, LaRue is joyfully and importantly promoting awareness for local wildlife, and he is inviting us all to help the turtles cross the road…so they can SAFELY get to the other side.
YOU can be a Turtle Whisperer, too!
First, like LaRue, keep an eye out for turtles this time of year. Also, follow these easy tips for their safety AND your own:
- Always make certain of your own safety and the safety of your children if you stop your vehicle and get out to help a turtle.
- Make sure to transport the turtle in the direction it was heading: NEVER TURN THEM AROUND! The turtle is on a mission, and if you turn it around, it will simply go back across the road when you drive away.
- Once you have the turtle across the road, you can sit and watch to make sure it is heading off and not turning back around.
- Although you may be tempted to relocate a turtle, don’t. Many turtles have “Home Ranges”, a territory they call home, and when relocated, they will search out ways back. Besides risking many additional road crossings, some turtles, if they cannot find their way back will stop eating and just wander listlessly.
- When picking up a small turtle, grasp it on either side of its shell behind the front legs. The turtle will still be able to kick at you, but many will choose to stay safely tucked in, during the short time you are moving it.
- Keep the turtle low to the ground when moving it. Even small turtles have surprising strength. If a turtle pushes free of your grip, you do not want it to fall and injure itself.
- SNAPPING TURTLES:
If the turtle is large (with a long tail), it may be a snapping turtle, they can be a bit aggressive and you might not want to attempt picking it up, but you can still help it across the road. If you are helping a large snapper, simply push it from behind with a blunt object (avoid anything sharp or pokey, you don’t want to hurt the turtle). Although snappers can seem dangerous, they are just protecting themselves or their babies; like any wild animal, you need to exercise caution.
- NEVER pick a turtle up by its tail—it can harm the turtle!
- You can feel great that the turtle you helped is a member of one of the longest-lived species on earth–who saw the rise and fall of dinosaurs!
|(These tips are borrowed from http://www.turtlerescueleague.com)|
Reptile photos by Kevin LaRue
Eyes to the roadside,
Join Loudoun Wildlife on Facebook and tell us about YOUR turtle rescues–we’d LOVE to see your pictures, too!