Why Does the Turtle Cross the Road? WHO CARES? JUST SAVE IT!
I saw a little green guy with cool red markings hanging out by the double yellow line the other day. I pulled over, got out of my car, and helped him to the other side. It was a good thing too. He nearly got squashed by an oncoming car before I reached him.
This little guy was small enough that I could grab him at the sides of his shell and his back legs barely reached my fingers. His head was also tucked deep inside after that car whizzed past within an inch of him. I don’t recommend this for larger turtles.
When picking up a small turtle, grasp it on either side of its shell behind the front legs. The turtle will still be able to kick at you, but many will choose to stay safely tucked in, during the short time you are moving them.
Keep the turtle low to the ground when moving them. Even small turtles have surprising strength. If a turtle pushes free of your grip, you do not want it to fall and injure itself.
If the turtle is large (with a long tail), it may be a snapping turtle, they can be a bit aggressive and you might not want to attempt picking it up, but you can still help it across the road.
NEVER EVER PICK UP ANY TURTLE BY THE TAIL, IT CAN INJURE THEM VERY BADLY.
Save a Snapper: Watch and Learn
This video demonstrates multiple methods you could use to help a large Snapping Turtle across the road. If you can manage this, you can help almost any turtle!
Never Take a Wild Turtle Home
Unless transporting an injured turtle to the nearest vet or wildlife rehabilitation center, leave it in the wild. The world has enough imprisoned animals no longer allowed to lead the life they were meant to. You’ll do more good by respecting those who still have that option.
The picture above was my first encounter with a real snake – albeit not at a rattlesnake rodeo. We were on a family Florida trip. I felt uneasy posing with this pet, yet smiled anyway. In this moment, I learned that I could feel uneasy and safe, as long as I treated this animal with respect. It was 1977. I was 6 years old. I still remember at 42.
That a snake moves like a fish on land is utterly foreign to our human experience. Our inability to relate is what makes snakes both fascinating and unnerving. Add a rattle to that tail and we move from unnerved to fearful.
Heroism requires battling instinctual fear to perform a greater good. But we must first understand what that greater good is. Today, I ask rattlesnake rodeo hunters and festival attendees to re-examine their definition. I ask you to help them see another side.
Welcome to the Rattlesnake Rodeo
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake courtesy Wikimedia Commons – Tad Arensmeier
The main attraction at Rattlesnake Rodeos, also known as Rattlesnake Round-Ups, are wild caught rattlesnakes displayed, killed for food, and sold to create animal products. The snakes are also drained of their venom for anti-venom serum and every other part of the snake is used for something. You’ll find these events popular in the rural Midwest and Southern United States.
When you back the lens out far enough, the rattlesnake hunt appears to be no different than responsible deer hunt or the quest for a wild caught fish. The creature lives a wild, free life until their swift end comes as humanely as possible. A cultural celebration akin to the Native Americans’ should deliver thanks to the spirits for the gift of a good hunt and human survival. This is all an act of respect, right?
Then why are a snake’s teeth ripped out with pliers while it is still alive?
Bastardization of a Celebration
In preparation for a Rattlesnake Rodeo, rattlers are either gassed out of their holes (with fumes harming turtles, small mammals and the environment) or pulled out by a metal hook – which sometimes punctures the snake’s body or head. They are then thrown into a display pit, sometimes injured but still alive, and kicked around for the sake of entertainment. But wait. There’s more.
After being frozen to slow the snake’s reflexes, teeth are pulled out and their mouths sewn shut so that people can parade around with a live Diamondback for a picture, until it dies and another is tortured in its place.
When the snakes are beheaded, their tongues still flick as their killers parade around with their heads on a stick. Why? The nerves can be responsive for hours, which means pain sensors are still active and attached to their brains.
Snake hearts are cut out to show how they still beat independent of the snake’s body.
Adding insult to deadly injury, the blood of thousands of snakes is drained into a bucket where parents teach children to reach in, giggling, so they can mark a wall with bloody hand prints.
Venom collection in the name of a good cause is rendered unusable because the collection process is not sterile.
The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, an international society of about 2,000 professional scientists who specialize in the biology and conservation of fishes,amphibians, and reptiles, strongly opposes traditional rattlesnake roundups. Such roundups promote overexploitation of natural populations of wildlife, unnecessary killing and inhumane treatment of individual animals, degradation of habitat, and promotion of outdated attitudes toward important elements of America’s natural heritage. Found nowhere but in the Americas, and especially diverse in the United States, the more than thirty species of rattlesnakes comprise a distinctive component of North America’s biodiversity, and one that is increasingly imperiled.
Why Do It? Big Fear Brings Big Money.
The largest Rattlesnake Round-Up event in the United States is held in Sweetwater, Texas, complete with cash prizes and trophies. Attendance is based on slaying a fearsome dragon and, according to Wikipedia, “The events often attract thousands of tourists, which can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue into small towns; the Sweetwater Round-Up’s economic impact was estimated to exceed US$5 million in 2006.”
In the following short film, Orry talks about the reality of snakes in the wild and dispels judgment rooted in quick-cash sensationalism stemming from Round-Ups calling rattlers, as Animal Planet does, “the most dangerous creatures on the planet.”
Feared as deadly and aggressive, diamondbacks are actually highly averse to human contact and only attack in defense. Most bites occur when humans taunt or try to capture or kill a rattlesnake.
Follow Orry’s advice. “Educate. Not Eradicate.” Rattlesnakes are highly important to human health. Controlling the rodent population, they are responsible for keeping human contracted disease at bay. Instances of hantavirus and plague rise in direct proportion to the absence of snakes. And, without the rattlesnakes, we will no longer have the venom used to make medications that treat diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and blood clots. Let’s celebrate that.
ROCK a NEW Kind of Rattlesnake Rodeo!
Rather than outlaw the Rattlesnake Round-Ups, ask them to teach the importance of conservation and to share real facts. There are no-kill Round-Ups in existence. They impose catch size restrictions and require the release of captured snakes back into the wild. We need the rest to be like them, offering education that isn’t based in fear. Urge Round-Up sponsors to convert the remaining roundups into wildlife-friendly and educational festivals!
Even if snakes unnerve you, smile and sign the petition anyway. You’ll help a fellow creature live a life of dignity, something we all deserve no matter how misunderstood we are – something we should teach our children that they’ll remember for a lifetime.
This post is part of Blog the Change, an event hosted by BTC4Animals.com asking us to share a cause near and dear to our hearts. Blog, read and BE the change for animals!
World Animal Awareness – it’s not just about animals. It’s about people too. These are some of the stories highlighted on Facebook this week by World Animal Awareness Society – WA2S.Org, a dedicated non profit focused on filming human animal intersections worldwide.
The human/animal connection is readily apparent on a most basic level in a video called Women Want Change. This video comes from The Brook, an international charity relieving the suffering of horses & donkeys working for some of the world’s poorest communities. (Visit The Brook on Facebook.)
Women can play a powerful role in bringing about change and, through its training, The Brooke is equipping women in many rural communities with the skills, confidence, and knowledge to make improvements for the future wellbeing of their animals and their families. – The Brooke President, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall
Watch the shift toward better animal husbandry as illiterate women are educated about proper working animal nutrition, wound care and problems with overloading. They speak of a time when they didn’t know more than to use traditional – yet lacking – healing methods as compared with now healthy animals who benefit the survival of their families.
And in the good old, literate US of A, horrors exist for entertainment’s sake.
Indiana’s Snapperfest is an event in which contestants demonstrate their prowess by pulling the heads of live turtles far outside of their shells. Undercover footage from August 2011 Snapperfest provided by the World Animal Awareness Society – WA2S.Org reveals numerous acts of cruelty. As I watched seemingly fun-loving Americans enjoying what was clearly a violation no less offensive than rape by any law of nature I subscribe to, I was nearly sick.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund:
The DNR has condoned these actions by stating that Snapperfest participants are exempt from anti-cruelty law under an exception for activities including hunting and trapping, because, so they say, the turtles were trapped prior to their mistreatment at Snapperfest.
On January 19th, the national non-profits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Best Friends Animal Society submitted a petition for rulemaking to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission, arguing that the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) misinterpretation of state law has allowed for illegal cruelty at Ohio County’s annual “Snapperfest.”