What’s a Turtle’s Life Worth

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Yesterday I was driving to the Kansas City airport to drop off Trudi. She was flying out to the Tour of California. About 1/2 way there, on the Turnpike, I saw this box turtle in the middle of the interstate. I was in the passing lane. It is a three lane highway. The turtle was in the middle lane, facing the shoulder. It was moving, but moving slowly, like turtles do. I tried to get over, but there was no way I was going to be able to stop and then go back and retrieve the turtle.

It is been haunting me ever since. I can’t imagine that the turtle made it back off the road. I’d love to think that was the case, but it isn’t realistic. There are too many semi trailer trucks driving on the road. They are definitely not going to serve to miss a box turtle. I would though.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how valuable a turtles life is? If I asked people, most people, if they were being truthful, wouldn’t give it much value. We tend to put priceless tags on human life, then way less value, but some on mammals lives, such as our dogs and cats, but reptiles are way, way down the scale. I would imagine that most people would put reptiles just a little above insects in the life value category.

I don’t feel that way. I love turtles. I think they have personality. They are self sufficient, carry there own homes, live a really long time and just go about their business, slowly. I think they are great. I liked turtles way before I started riding bikes, but through cycling, I’ve had the opportunity to “run into” way more turtles than the average person.

If there was only one turtle left on the planet, then I think that many people would put value on it, but since they are everywhere, no one gives them a second thought. I don’t think people think much at all when they see a smashed turtle on the road. Not like a cat or something. But I do.

Just think if a human had to make a turtle. It is beyond our capabilities. By years, 100’s of years. Something we take so much for granted and they are irreplaceable by man. Such is all life.

Anyway, next time you have a chance to take a minute of two out of your day to move a turtle out of harm’s way, do it. No matter what you think about the reptile, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.

The turnpike has this concrete median, so the turtle couldn't get across if he wanted.

Bromont slep through the whole turtle ordeal.

17 thoughts on “What’s a Turtle’s Life Worth

  1. Bill

    Steve I moved one on Sunday. Same deal crossing the road. He’s all good now. Love the blog .



  2. Mike G

    After seeing a rider centerpunch a turtle in a road race, I found a live one on the road later in the day and presented it to him. I thought if he needed to feel better about it, saving one by getting it across the road safely would do the trick.
    It was a win-win – he got a good laugh out of putting it in the grass away from the road, and the turtle seemed to love the ride in the tank bag on my moto – hanging its head out like a dog out the window.

  3. jim sully

    Those highway walls are not critter friendly, even when the traffic engineers care enough to leave water drainage openings at the base of these walls large enough for critters such as raccoons , bobcats,skunks,or even turtles to squeeze through, the toll on critters not able to jump or squeeze is evident for all to see.
    These walls have sprung up for various reasons. The Calif hwys such as hwy 17 between Los Gatos+Santa Cruz, hwy 1 above Pacifica, have these walls.
    The main reason for these particular walls,as stated by caltrans, is night blinding of drivers by headlights that are so high(SUV’s) that they blind oncoming traffic…hence the need for ever higher walls.
    Sometimes critters , like your observed turtle, get lucky+manage to avoid getting squashed, I hope for this outcome on your turtle…

  4. Marita Peak

    I’m so glad you saved the turtle. I try to do that also, and always find it so bittersweet when they duck their heads in their shells as cars approach. I wonder what percentage of them make it…..

  5. Webhed38

    Here in MN I come across many turtles in the spring and fall. I seem to come across more than my share of snapping turtles, so I started a picture collection of them. My biggest to date was one whose shell was almost 2′ across!!! The problem with snappers is you can’t just pick them up and take them to the shoulder. If it’s cold and they’re slow you can grab them by the tail…but if they’ve been on the asphalt on a warm sunny day for a while…LOOK OUT!

  6. Jean-Marie

    Steve- you might like the writings of Barry Lopez. He wrote a short book titled _Apologia_ that is about, well, roadkill and our violent encounters with road-killed animals and our vague sense of apprehension about violence in general. The main character in the story (Lopez) obsessively stops to move roadkill off of the road in a form of reverence for the life of the animals he encounters, of the land, and a recognition of our relationship with animals, the land, and their histories. It’s a beautiful story.

  7. Jim

    We don’t have turtles around here but once I was walking in front of my house and I heard a “clunk, clunk, clunk”. Poor guy was trying to get to turtleville. I remember seeing some neighbor kids a few months prior playing with them, so brought the guy back and yes, it was their’s. Saw the kids grow up, never any contact beyond the occasional “hi”, but we always remembered that.

    Friend of mine was into turtles; found one in my mom’s back yard far away, tied it around its shell with a clothesline, fed it. When it was time to go to the airport I put it in a box and it rode in my bag, presented it to my friend.

    Turtles are great.

  8. Franz

    I removed a turtle that was stuck on the track at a railroad crossing. A train was coming and the cross arms were down. I crossed on my bike and noticed him. I am sure they were not to happy with me coming back for him.

  9. McFly

    If there was a wall then what the heck was he thinking? He was obviously suicidal.

  10. euro

    I put turtles way above cats on the “worth” scale. Tome cats are down there with rats and squirrels.

  11. trey h.

    Thanks for the impassioned statement about turtles. Turtles are actually doing pretty awful. Over 50% of the world’s ~325 species are endangered…some species down to just a few individuals. http://turtlesurvival.org/ Headed up by a colleague of my better half. He’s a pretty swell guy.

  12. Mike Rodose

    Yes. Big fan of the turtles!

    I bunny-hop them when dead or alive. But always return and transport them to safety when alive.

    Raccoons in rigor mortis can be a challenge to bunny hop, btw. At least for me…

  13. missylynn

    I’m thinking about that turtle now too…..I’m pretty positive he made it safely back to the shoulder- shoot, he made it to the median and half way back already……just hope he doesn’t want to try it again!~

  14. Nick Hand

    I started noticing a lot of turtles after reading about you moving them across the road here. I helped one the other day get up and over a curb on his way to a little pond in Forest Park here is St Louis. I hope your turtle made it too.


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