Where turtles roam by Donna Quinn, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
Why did the turtle cross the road?
She was likely living between two ponds, both man made, one in a golf course, the other in a planned townhouse community, separated by what is now a busy Loudoun County road. At some point, her life was destined to intersect with a mass of metal moving at 50 mph. It didn’t take much to crack her carapace and flip her over. I found her upside down, legs waving frantically, in the middle of the road. Her injury didn’t look too bad (considering) and she was feisty (a good sign). Painted with brilliant red and yellow veins, she was a gorgeous painted turtle in the prime of her life.
On the way to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center where she would receive treatment and their magical healing abilities.
Painted turtles are the most widely distributed turtles in North America. They spend their lives in and near freshwater habitats with soft bottoms. In Native American folklore, a turtle fell in love with the chief’s daughter but neither the daughter nor her parents would take notice of him. Finally, he painted himself to attract attention and as soon as the chief’s daughter saw him, she fell in love and followed him to the water where she became a soft shelled turtle.
After a week of treatment by the highly skilled angels at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, she was ready for release. Painted turtles, along with other turtle species, must be released where they are found. Relocating turtles spreads disease and can result in the turtle dying in its attempt to return to its home territory. Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, suggested using Google Maps satellite imagery to look for a safer place within a mile of where she was found. Just a bit over a mile away, still within a reasonable range, the Willowsford Grange Community with native wildflower meadows bordered by creeks and wildlife friendly residents and farmers, provided everything this girl needed to spend what would hopefully be an uneventful remainder of her 40 or so years of life.
After meeting her new neighbors at the Willowsford farm stand, she was ready for her new beginning.
We walked along the stream bed in a gentle drizzle to where a giant blue lobelia was blooming.
She took her time making her way to the water. Maybe she was resetting her internal compass, or perhaps she was taking a moment to absorb her peaceful surroundings, so different from her previous home.
…finally, she entered the water. Live long and prosper beautiful painted turtle.
Please drive carefully. Their lives depend on us.