Famous turtle returns home
Famous rescued snapping turtle returns to Port Franks
Porter the Turtle’s rescue made province-wide headlines; one year later wildlife rescue agencies return him to his home in Port Franks area
Porter is home. Porter is a famous Snapping Turtle from the Port Franks area. He made headlines across Ontario one year ago when volunteers in Port Franks and area, and around the province, joined to rescue Porter and save his life.
This newsworthy reptile suffered multiple jaw fractures in May of 2013, after an encounter with a car on the road. Port Frank’s Bill Mallett discovered the badly injured turtle and, after Porter looked him in the eyes, the Port Franks man knew he had to help the animal. Mallett took the turtle for help to Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue in Oil Springs. The turtle was then airlifted, by Pilots N Paws Canada volunteer pilot and Windsor resident Rick Woodall, to Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC) in Peterborough. Porter underwent surgery there for his injuries and the adult turtle has been rehabilitating at the trauma centre for the past year.
That’s yesterday’s news, however. This province-wide news story took a heartwarming new turn this past week. Turtle Trauma Centre volunteer Kate Siena drove Porter from Peterborough on Tuesday, May 27 to release him back home in his native Port Franks. Mallett, who had found the turtle and started the chain of events that saved the animal’s life, was able to assist at Porter’s release back into the wild. “There’s a definite connection” between Bill and the turtle, Siena said. She took Porter out of his large container in the car and gently set him in the water to return him to his local habitat. It didn’t take long for Porter to swim into the water and make it home again.
Mallett is a volunteer with the Port Franks Area Turtle Monitoring Program, a community effort that has been running for four years to monitor local turtle numbers and protect them. “There is a great community in Port Franks that is genuinely concerned about the turtles that live there,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. “Bill is a perfect example of the care and concern of people in the Port Franks area. If Bill had not stopped to help Porter get the care he needed, this species-at-risk turtle would likely have died.”
Turtles are a vital part of the ecological system in the area, said Brock, and Snapping Turtles are especially important. “Snapping Turtles are omnivores. That means they eat both plants and animals,” she said. “They are important scavengers as well, which means they help clean our creeks and wetlands by eating dead and decaying fish and other organisms.”
Bill Mallett found Porter after the turtle tried to cross the road. Crossing roads is something most turtles in southwestern Ontario must do. Sadly, that results in many injuries and deaths of the animals. During the spring season it is common to see turtles crossing roads as they come out of hibernation and make their way to their summer habitats. Road encounters become even more frequent in June when females leave their wetland habitats in search of suitable locations to nest.
If someone comes upon a turtle crossing a road, they can help it to cross if it is safe to do so, and if they feel comfortable doing this. Smaller turtles can simply be picked up on the sides of their shell and moved across. Snapping Turtles require a little more care. They should only be handled by the back of the shell. (Snapping Turtles have very long necks and may be able to reach back and snap at you). Never pick up a turtle by their tail as this can damage their spine. Once one has a firm grip on the back of the shell, depending on the size of the turtle, one can lift or gently drag the turtle to safety. Blankets, towels, and car mats can also be used to transport the turtle across the road. The important thing to remember when assisting turtles across roads, is to move them in the direction they are headed. The Port Franks Turtle Monitoring Network teaches volunteers how to properly assist turtles across roads. An instructional video about safe turtle transport, posted by Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond, is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgd_B6iKPxU
Some people might wonder why so much effort was put into saving a single Snapping Turtle. The fact is that any increase in the number of adult deaths can cause the populations of this important species to decline. This is due to the Snapping Turtle’s low reproductive rate and low chance of survival for its young.
If you would like to find out more about turtles and how you can help monitor turtle populations and protect these species, contact Hope Brock at Ausable Bayfield Conservation at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.