A dear friend of mine was visiting recently from Denver, and we decided to spend the afternoon listening to live music down in Melbourne Beach. On the drive back up, I noticed something in the road. I positioned my SUV to straddle the object, driving over it. As I drove by, I immediately recognized the object as a turtle. I immediately slammed on by brakes and backed up. I got out of my vehicle and waved the oncoming traffic around the turtle.
It was a Gopher Tortoise which is the state tortoise of Florida...they are also an endangered species. It was an adult tortoise, I believe a male, with a carapace of over 10 inches in length. My heart broke when I saw that he had been run over by a car. His carapace was cracked and a 3-4 inch piece of his shell was missing from the top, but he was still alive. Blood was running down the top of his shell as he looked up and me woefully from hiding inside his shell. I moved him to the side of the road and then called all the numbers that I could think of trying to find someone to help on a Sunday. I found the Florida Wildlife Animal Hospital in Palm Shores.
My friend and I put together an area of towels in the cargo section of my SUV for "Leo" as my friend Stephanie named him. I gently put him in the back of the truck and we raced north on A1a to the hospital. Leo was actually pretty active in the back of the truck, and Stephanie and I were quite hopeful about his recovery.
We got Leo to the Wildlife Hospital and filled out all of the applicable paperwork. I called back on Monday to follow up on Leo's treatment. Unfortunately, they told me that Leo had a critical spinal injury due to being run over by a car. They decided to euthanize my little turtle. A week later, my chest still is tight when I think about that sad little face that must have been in so much pain.
My reason for writing this blog is to remind people that turtles and tortoises have been on this planet for 60 million years. We are the interlopers here not them. I have moved several tortoises off of the road in the last few years. According to the folks at the Wildlife Hospital, car hits are the most common reason that tortoises arrive at the hospital. If you see a turtle on the road PLEASE don't just drive around it and drive off. Please stop and move these sweet, peaceful animals out of dangers way.
The photos in this blog are not of Leo, he was so badly injured that no one would want to see that, but they are of gopher tortoises. PLEASE CARE enough to help these gentle creatures! RIP my sweet Leo.