Monday, June 17, 2013

Terrapin in trouble

I always keep a pair of leather gloves in my car for when I see the likes of this:
Sarah Deel looking south toward NASA Road 1.  Fortunately, there were almost no cars on the road at this hour of the morning. 
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you consider intervening on behalf of imperiled local wildlife:
  • Safety first.  Call 911 if you perceive that an animal situation poses a risk to people (such as a large, violent, or erratic animal in a public place - see the remarkable video at end of this post).
  • Watch yourself if you jump into the roadway (especially if you're a day laborer).  Watch both yourself and your car (if you're driving one). 
  • Note that it might not strictly be legal to enter the roadway on foot for these purposes, particularly if you fail to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. 
  • Note that it's probably not legal in any of our local jurisdictions for a private citizen to take it upon themselves to direct traffic around an imperiled animal in a public right-of-way. 
  • Be mindful of the potential for zoonotic diseases through contact with wild animals.  I would never pick up an animal without gloves even if I believed it posed no risk of physical injury.
  • Animals can't comprehend your rescue intentions.  They can injure you through biting, scratching, and generally wreaking havoc, even small animals.
  • Consult with professionals whenever possible.  If calling 911 is not warranted, you could call The Wildlife Center of Texas (formerly Wildlife Rehab and Education) at 713-861-9453 for advice on how to deal with your situation.  Either that or Texas Parks and Wildlife
  • Many animals require permits to possess or even to handle.  Both of the sources in the bullet above have information on that. 
Screengrab of The Wildlife Center of Texas's homepage banner.  Note that they have several links designed to help people understand what to do in predicaments involving wildlife. 
Gosh, all that stuff above sounds pretty complicated for a five-second turtle dash-and-grab, doesn't it?  But sometimes people focus so narrowly on saving the wildlife that they endanger themselves or those around them without realizing it.  And we all live in a self-imposed hell of incomprehensible regulatory complexity, so the considerations listed above are just the nature of it. 
Oh yeah, with terrapins (turtles), one more piece of advice which I haven't verified but which seems to be true to my informal experience: 

When you put them back down again, point them in the same direction they were originally headed.  I think they use the sun to navigate, so if you take them back to the side of the road whence they came, they're more like to crawl into the roadway all over again. 

Here is this a pic of this shy girl pointed west (I'm assuming it's a girl because Texas Turtles says that many wandering turtles are females looking for a good place to lay their eggs).  She was covered in algae, which means that she crawled out of some really nice ditch or pond, of which there aren't many in proximity to Sarah Deel.  She may have trekked a considerable distance before embarking on her life-and-death roadway experience this morning.   

She was on her way to a date with destiny.  I was on my way to a meeting and so I did not have time for good portraiture.  She got lucky.  I also saw a large snake on West Walker Street this morning but I was en route to meetings and didn't have time to rescue that guy. 
Speaking of immediate-risk large wildlife, here courtesy of Absolute Clear Lake is a humorous video of League City PD attempting to intimidate an alligator on FM 2094 (Marina Bay Drive) a few weeks ago.  As my teenager observed, "He's takin' no sh*t".  In more civilized language, this was a case of alligator 1, LCPD zero.

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