Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blanding's Turtle on the Road

Just when I thought the "turtle in the road" season was over, I spotted a large bump on the highway - a mile south of where I live.  At first I thought it was a rock, or something that fell off a truck.  It was that big.  It wasn't until I'd dodged and passed it that I realized what it was.  A very, very big Blanding's turtle.

Note the yellow lower mandible - the diagnostic characteristic for this species.

I panicked.  It was "rush hour" in rural west-central Wisconsin.  Cars and trucks were zipping along State Road 25.  I stopped and turned around.  No time for a "k-turn."    I pulled a u-turn and stopped parallel to the turtle.  I held my breath as a sedan passed me.  I didn't want to see (and hear) the crunch/splat.

Fortunately, the driver missed the turtle (but not by much).  I hopped out and grabbed it, and hustled over to the side of the road, behind my car.

It was the biggest and oldest (the smooth shell implies age) Blanding's turtle I've seen to date.  Listed as threatened in Wisconsin, seeing one this size is a treat - but not on a major highway.

It takes 14-20 years for this "semi- box" turtle to reach sexual maturity - and the female lays an average of 8 eggs per clutch.  They can live 80 years in the wild!  With luck, this geriatric turtle will live to cross the road again.

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