Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Archival Transfer 2007

Marine biologist Sheila Sinclair checks the vital signs of a cold-stunned turtle.

Rescued Cape turtles in good hands

Each year, New England Aquarium staff, interns and volunteers pick a theme to name the turtles that are brought in for treatment during the fall and early winter stranding season.

This year's theme is cartoon characters.

And so, the little 5-pound Kemp's ridley turtle that washed up at Linnell Landing in Brewster over Thanksgiving was dubbed Scooby-Doo.

But Scooby-Doo's condition when he was brought into the aquarium on Nov. 24 was anything but comical.

His heart rate was down to five beats per minute, far from the 20 to 22 beats per minute of the healthy turtles at the aquarium.

No one knows how many leatherbacks, loggerheads, greens and Kemp's ridleys hang out in Cape Cod Bay eating crabs, mollusks, jellyfish and fish. What is known is that the turtles that linger too late in the season, lulled by the warm bay waters, are often surprised by the sudden onslaught of winter.

Scooby's fate had been sealed the day after Thanksgiving, when a sudden cold front blew in from Canada, scouring Cape Cod Bay with 20 degree temperatures and 40 mph winds. Turtle metabolism matches the water or air temperature around the animals. When water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, Scooby's heart and respiratory system slowed to the point where he was almost paralyzed, floating on the surface to breathe, helplessly pushed to shore by the wind.

Three-foot seas battered the 9½-inch long turtle, threatening to force sand up his nostrils and down his throat. His oversized front flippers, more like oars than legs, were useless on land. His beak bled from a nickel-sized hole chafed by being pushed into the sand by waves. Small nicks on his carapace and a missing nail also hinted at the beating he endured.

Then, rescue.

The morning of Nov. 24, Scooby was picked up by Massachusetts Audubon turtle patrol volunteers and he joined 20 other cold-stunned sea turtles, mostly from the Cape, that were being treated at the aquarium last week.

First stop, the Intensive Care Unit and a towel-lined tray in an incubator that slowly brought his temperature back up from 47.6 degrees.

When their body temperatures drop below 50, turtles are not mobile enough to feed, and the skin of Scooby's plastron was shrunken back onto his bony ribs. Like most stranded turtles, he was dehydrated by wind and lack of food. An intravenous drip replaced his bodily fluids using a special mix determined by an analysis of a blood sample drawn on arrival and every day thereafter.

His eyes and throat were checked for damage and sand. Because stress and a lowered metabolic rate suppress the turtle's immune system, creating an opportunity for fungal and bacterial infections, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications are often added to the IV.

More than anything else, blood chemistry would mark Scooby's progress back to health. As he recovered, he would be allowed to swim in pools, shallow at first to prevent overexertion and drowning, and filled with freshwater to help him rehydrate. Then, he was allowed to move into progressively bigger pools and have longer swim times. When his temperature and mobility and metabolic rate allowed, Scooby was fed frozen herring, capelin, squid, and finally live crabs.

If all goes right, in the coming weeks Scooby could be flown out to another aquarium down South for more rehab or release. Or, he could remain at the New England Aquarium through the winter to be released into the warm Cape waters of early summer.

Doug Fraser can be reached at

Kemp's ridley turtle

  • Named after Key West fisherman Richard Kemp, who first submitted a specimen to scientists for identification in 1906.
    • The only sea turtle species that nests during the day.
    • Kemp's ridley is the most endangered sea turtle species in the world.
    • In 1978, only 200 nests were found along the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, 12,143 were documented on beaches in Mexico, most at Rancho Nuevo.
    • In 1947, more than 42,000 nests were filmed at Rancho Nuevo. Nearby villagers took more than 33,000 of those nests for the eggs.
    • Today, scientists and volunteers protect the nests by enclosing them in wire cages. The 1½- inch long hatchlings are then shepherded down to the water where they immediately head offshore into the Gulf of Mexico, are swept by currents around Florida and, by the Gulf Stream up into New England waters.

Massachusetts Audubon Society presents:

Turtle Atlas
Sponsored by Blue Hills Trailside Museum

Program Location: Blue Hills Trailside Museum
Instructors: Stephen Hutchinson, Education Coordinator; Tabitha Hobbs, Teacher Naturalist
Program Audience: Adult
Program Code: 178-BH07SU1
Fee: Adults $15.00 m/ $20.00 nm
Number of Classes: 1
Program Date(s) and Time(s):
Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Where are the turtles? Who's out there? Trailside Museum is joining naturalists throughout New England to figure it out! We'll start out at Trailside to learn to identify some of the species and key habitats that we hope to find and then we'll head into the hills to start our own count of the turtles in the Blue Hills. This program will include live turtles, data collection, conservation and impact discussion, and a moderately difficult hike.

Registration is required, unless otherwise noted.

For more information, contact:

Blue Hills Trailside Museum
1904 Canton Ave
Milton, MA, 02186
Phone: 617-333-0690
View Blue Hills Trailside Museum's home page.

A worker at the Center For Wildlife cleans a turtle at the center's rehab. in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Article published Aug 14, 2007
Rescued turtles now at York center

YORK, Maine — A wildlife center in Cape Neddick is being inundated with turtles from South Portland after an oil spill there badly damaged the turtles' habitat.

Last week, hundreds of gallons began to seep into South Portland's Calvary Pond — a location considered ideal for turtles.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection found out about the spill on Aug. 7 and by Thursday, was transporting the oil-slicked turtles to the Center for Wildlife, or CFW, in Cape Neddick, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

CFWis the only location in Southern Maine equipped to cope with such a cleanup and was put on alert, according to a release from the center.

But as turtles started arriving, they realized the situation was worse than expected.

"We're here from early in the morning until late in the evening, our whole time dedicated to caring for the animals," said Karen McElmurry, Managing Director of the CFW. "It leaves very little time for anything else. But it's all worth it when we can help so many animals that otherwise wouldn't have a chance."

Animals like the turtles.

Since then, staff have continued the long process of gently washing and rinsing each turtle individually, being careful to remove as much of the oil as possible, keeping them warm under heat lamps and monitoring their condition closely.

It is not unusual for the turtles to be cleaned several times in order to remove all of the oil, and to be given an injection of vitamins to counteract the oil they have consumed.
Atop the turtle crisis, July and August are the center's busiest months.

It is a time when they are literally overrun with injured animals, many of them babies animals. It is during this time that the center treats a sizeable portion of the 1,500 animals treated annually.

"It can be tough," admits Laura Dehler, director of development and outreach. "Not only is this our tightest financial time, but it's also when everyone starts looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. We're all so invested in taking care of the animals that it can take its toll, physically and emotionally."

Even so, the Center never turns away an animal in need. They provide a full range of treatments needed to rehabilitate birds, mammals and reptiles in order to maximize each animal's chance of returning to the wild and getting a second chance at life.

As a private nonprofit organization, they rely exclusively on donations from individuals and foundations, receiving no government funding.

According to Dehler, this the center is looking for any help — physical or financial — that donors are willing to give.

For more information, or to contact the center, call 207-361-1400 or visit

Acadia Universitys Peter Kydd holds a Blandings turtle, outfitted with a GPS transmitter package.

Tracking turtles, 007-style

July 12, 2007

EVE, SALLY and Lumpy aren’t exactly spies, but they’ll be sporting 007 technology when they take to the waters and wetlands of Kejimkujik National Park this summer.

The endangered Blanding’s turtles will sport tiny global positioning system transmitters as part of a study aimed at monitoring their movements around the park.

"It is kind of James Bond-ish," said Stephen Flemming, a species-at-risk scientist with Parks Canada.

"It records every time it’s above water 24 hours a day. So we get the exact pattern of where they’re travelling, how they’re using habitat — the whole thing."

The easygoing turtles, which number about 300 in Nova Scotia, can move a few kilometres over the course of a day.

"Other times, they’ll sit in the same pond for days at a time," Mr. Flemming said Wednesday.

The tracking gizmos also contain radio transmitters so scientists can find their turtles again.

"What’s amazing about this is that whole thing with the two transmitters and the batteries and the whole business weighs under 100 grams," Mr. Flemming said. "I’m pretty sure the CIA’s got something smaller, but in terms of what regular people can achieve, this is about as small as one could ever get."

The adult turtles, which are about the size of a dinner plate, carry the transmitters in a small plastic pouch fastened to the backs of their shells. "It doesn’t seem to bother them at all."

The tiny tracking devices were developed by Norm Green, a retired electronics and software specialist who lives in Hammonds Plains but spends a lot of his spare time volunteering at Keji with his wife, Suzanne.

"I worked on it all winter, probably from November until April," Mr. Green said.

The transmitters are about a third the size of a hockey puck.

"The batteries last an estimated 30 to 40 days," the 57-year-old said. "So if we’re doing a full season of tracking, we would have to find them on probably three occasions to change the batteries."

The GPS engine in the transmitters is about the size of a postage stamp. It receives information from satellites, which is then stored on a memory card.

"It goes to sleep for two hours, and then it turns on and gets a fix from the satellite, saves it to disc and then goes to sleep for another two hours," Mr. Green said. "That’s a method of extending the battery life."

The tiny turtle transmitters went through trials this spring and, after a little tweaking to prevent leaks, will go into full-scale use this summer.

"Technology was never in that zone before," Mr. Flemming said. "Literally, (we’ll discover) where and how they’re using habitat, under what weather conditions, under what time of year, how they deal with roads, how they deal with forest harvest cuts."

That information will allow scientists to regulate the forestry industry accordingly.

"The beauty of this is we’ll have the exact routes where we see how the turtles do move and hence how they’re mitigating that landscape. Which allows us then to work with forestry companies and say, ‘If you harvest in this way, the turtles will be good. Harvest in that way, not so good.’ And with endangered species, clearly that becomes something that has legal and enforceable pieces as well."

Scientists also want to know the routes the turtles take to get to their nesting spots.

"Because potentially we could do things on the landscape that could significantly limit their ability to go to breeding areas and, obviously, that has an impact on populations."

Population studies show that if Nova Scotia doesn’t take aggressive action, it will lose Blanding’s turtles fairly soon.

"In my estimation, I think (the population) will be non-recoverable in about 20 years," Mr. Flemming said. "So now’s the time."

In that vein, volunteers at Keji are also involved in protecting the Blanding’s turtle nests from predators. They’ve gone so far as to erect wire screens around traditional nesting sites to protect the eggs.

"The predation by raccoons is extremely high," Mr. Flemming said.

Volunteers are also "head-starting" turtles by raising them in captivity, then releasing them in the park.

"They’re pretty hard-wired. When you put them out in the environment, they just go, ‘I am a turtle. I am going to eat like this; I’m going to move like that.’ And our survivorship with head-started turtles to date has been very high."

© 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited

Malaysia to try to clone threatened turtles

July 12, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia is launching a $9 million project to try to clone some of its threatened leatherback turtles in a last-ditch bid to save them from extinction.

Malaysian agricultural and veterinary experts will join scientists in domestic and foreign universities on the five-year project, the New Straits Times reported on Thursday.

Junaidi Che Ayub, chief of Malaysia's fisheries department, said the cloning procedure would first be carried out on green turtles, which are abundant in Malaysia's northeastern state of Terengganu, where the leatherbacks nest.

"Once we have perfected the technique, we will apply it to leatherback turtles as they are a more complicated species in the turtle family," the paper quoted Junaidi as saying.

Rantau Abang in Terengganu used to be the nesting home of one of the seven largest leatherback populations in the world but its population has declined by more than 99 percent since the 1960s, global conservation group WWF says on its Malaysia Web site.

Leatherbacks, known to scientists as Dermochelys coriacea, get their name from their leathery carapace, and have distinctive long front flippers, the site said.

They face threats such as the loss of nesting and feeding places, excessive egg-collection, fatal entangling in fishing nets, pollution and coastal development, it added.

Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into other egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother.

One of the most famous cloned animals, Dolly the sheep, was born in 1996. She was later euthanized at the age of 8 because of a degenerative lung condition.


Endangered Status Sought for Imperiled Sea Turtles
Longline Fisheries and Global Warming Could Drive North Pacific Loggerhead Turtles Extinct

SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups filed a formal petition today to increase protections for critically imperiled loggerhead sea turtles that occur off the U.S. West Coast and are caught and killed in industrial fisheries based in California and Hawaii. The petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, seeks to have North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles listed as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act and to have areas along the California coast and off Hawaii designated as “critical habitat” for the species.

Loggerhead sea turtles in the North Pacific nest in Japan, but cross the Pacific to feed in the rich waters off the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico. These ancient animals, which can live for a century or more, have swum the Earth’s oceans since the days of dinosaurs. However, in the past 25 years populations have declined by over 80 percent, with fewer than 1,000 females returning to their natal beaches to nest each year.

The primary threat to loggerhead sea turtles is pelagic longline fishing. Longline fishing vessels seeking swordfish and tuna each deploy several thousand baited hooks on fishing lines that can extend for more than 60 miles. Over a billion longline hooks are set in the world’s oceans each year, catching and killing not just swordfish and tuna but thousands of sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals and sharks.

“Sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but are unlikely to survive longline fishing,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This barbaric fishing gear should be banned from our nation’s and international waters.”

More than 1,000 scientists and 300 organizations from 100-plus countries have called upon the United Nations for a moratorium on pelagic longline fishing in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, rather than head this call, the United States is gearing up to expand such fisheries. Following a successful lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, in 2004 longline fishing for swordfish was prohibited along the West Coast. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency charged with managing fisheries as well as sea turtles, has proposed to issue a permit that would allow an “experimental” longline fishery for swordfish off the California and Oregon coasts this fall. The permit is the first step toward establishing a full-scale industrial longline fishery off the West Coast. A similar fishery is operated out of Hawaii and is responsible for the deaths of numerous whales in addition to sea turtles.

“Rather than opening the waters off California and Oregon to deadly industrial fishing fleets, we should be protecting these areas as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles and other imperiled wildlife,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

North Pacific loggerheads are geographically isolated and genetically distinct from loggerheads that occur in the Atlantic, Indian and South Pacific Oceans. Loggerhead sea turtles are currently listed as “threatened” throughout their range under the Endangered Species Act. Separate listing of the more imperiled North Pacific loggerheads would trigger additional protections under U.S. law, including the designation of critical habitat.

More information is available from Turtle Island Restoration Network at and from the Center for Biological Diversity at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Turtle Island Restoration network is a California-based international marine conservation organization that works to protect sea turtles and other marine species in the United States and in countries around the world.

UMass biologist Mike Jones uses duct tape to secure a GPS beacon to the back of a 40-pound Snapper

Turtles go high-tech to protect species
DEERFIELD, Mass. — From the way he thrashed his head, kicked and tried to make a getaway, M16 made it clear he didn't like human contact. But the researchers wrangling with him could be helping to save his species.

Despite his best efforts to escape the clutches of two scientists from the University of Massachusetts and get back to the swamp he was just lifted from, the 40-pound snapping turtle finally gave up and let Mike Jones and Matt Garber do their jobs.

Using a combination of orthodontic cement and duct tape, the students attached a postcard-sized waterproof computer to the turtle's shell. After christening the 16th male turtle he found in the area as "M16," Jones scribbled some information about the turtle's shell markings into a field book and set the snapper free.

Knowing where M16 goes could help scientists protect him.

In an experiment taking place along the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts, two otherwise unrelated groups of researchers are working together: computer engineers like Garber who are testing a new wireless communication network, and biologists like Jones who are tracking snapping turtles — a species they worry may be headed for decline as land development shrinks their habitat.

The idea behind the technology is to create a network of constantly moving devices that record and store information, transmit data from one device to another, then relay all the saved information to a central location while running on self-charging batteries.

"A lot of the existing technology works great as long as you're not moving around and you have stable networks and people who could recharge batteries," said Jacob Sorber, a doctoral candidate in computer science who designed the network he calls TurtleNet, a project funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

The solar-powered computers are light enough so they don't weigh the turtles down, and they don't interrupt their mating habits, Jones said.

Stuck to the shells of about 15 turtles found in spots near the Deerfield swamp, the gadgets will take periodic readings of the reptiles' location and body temperature.

When one computer-carrying snapper gets within a tenth-of-a-mile of another, the machines swap information.

The series of short-distance transmissions allows for long battery life in each computer, and the solar panels attached to the units are expected to constantly keep the batteries charged. Without a relay system, a longer transmission would require a larger battery that would drain too quickly or be too big for a turtle to carry.

The turtle-to-turtle relay ends when one of the snappers passes near a single base station that receives all the accumulated information. While Jones thinks the snappers may roam up to 10 miles from the Deerfield swamp they know as home, he says it's in their nature to return to the bog where the base station is.

Working like a cellphone sending a text message, the base station zaps the data to the UMass-Amherst campus about 15 miles away, where biologists are charting each turtle's whereabouts.

"We're trying to get a better idea of their range, the routes they take and where they hibernate," said Jones, who is working on a doctoral degree in biology. "If you have that information for a good number of turtles, you can predict what their patterns will be for the next 50 years or so."

Booming land development and an increase in natural predators has landed seven of Massachusetts' 10 freshwater turtle species on the state's endangered species list. Snappers aren't there yet, but Jones and other biologists are concerned they're on their way.

"People think they're a nuisance, they're aggressive and they're smelly," he said. "And you see a lot of dead snappers on the side of the road. But most of the turtles that people are running over are mothers trying to get somewhere to nest."

By mapping where and how the snappers move, they're trying to generate enough information that could be used to help protect turtle habitats.

Until now, tracking turtles has been a difficult — and messy — business.

Jones has been following turtles around New England by attaching radio receivers to their shells. When he goes looking for them, he has to carry a radio receiver while wading through swamps and bushwhacking through woods hoping to pick up a signal. And the radio batteries are good for only about two years.

If TurtleNet — which was launched in June — works, he'll be able to spend less time hunting for his subjects. The computers should let him know where the turtles are at any time.

Researchers from Princeton University have been using a similar technology during the past five years to track zebras in Kenya. Unlike TurtleNet, the Princeton project uses computers with larger batteries that could be more easily carried on collars attached to the strong, fast-moving zebras.

Still, the end result is the same, and the Princeton scientists say their studies have shed new light on the animals' migratory patterns.

"These are early examples of using computer engineering to answer questions about biology," said Margaret Martonosi, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton. "If you know where these animals are going and how they're moving, you could take steps to better preserve the land and their habitat."

While the turtles may not be covering as much ground as the zebras, their interaction with people is increasing. And that puts them in more peril.

"You see a lot of them up the road this time of year," said Les Jackson, who works on a farm adjacent to the swamp where M16 was found.

Early summer is when turtles nest, and finding a place to lay their eggs often means crossing busy roads. The snappers Jackson was referring to were the ones he's seen crushed by cars.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Beal's four-eyed turtle

Rare turtle hatches at Tenn. Aquarium

Sun Jun 17, 4:14 AM ET

A rare turtle has hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium, one of only three places in the United States that display the endangered species, aquarium officials announced.

A Beal's four-eyed turtle, named for two white spots on the back of its head that look like a pair of eyes, hatched from a clutch of three eggs, officials said Friday.

"This little turtle in Chattanooga may represent the first successful reproduction of Sacalia bealei in a North American institution," aquarium herpetologist Enrico Walder said.

The turtle weighed 0.21 ounces and was 1.52 inches long when it hatched June 9.

There are only 18 known Beal's four-eyed turtles in the United States and Europe. The Dallas Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, Calif., also have the turtles, officials at the Chattanooga aquarium said.

The turtles were once common in southern China, and researchers believe their numbers will not grow because of the species' low reproductive rate.

"As with many Asian species, the Beal's four-eyed turtle has been over collected for use in the Chinese food and traditional medicine trade," Walder said.

A male Beal's four-eyed turtle is on display at the aquarium, but the baby will not be exhibited until it is older.


On the Net:

Tennessee Aquarium:

Giant Tortoises

Giant tortoises are seen on the Galapagos islands in this April 29, 2007 file photo. The United Nations said Ecuador should step up efforts to protect the Galapagos, 625 miles (1,000 km) off Ecuador's coast, from growing tourism and immigration. The U.N. will decide in July if the Pacific archipelago is officially "in danger".

Turtle lovers tackle road kill problem
By Keith O'Brien, Globe Staff. May 20, 2007

HAMILTON -- Here's the thing about turtles: They're slow. Also, they're not afraid of cars. And so, when your two-ton sport utility vehicle , or even your eco-friendly hybrid, comes bearing down on a turtle, it's clear which side will prevail.

Hint: It's not the reptile.

"They're just squashed," said Mark Grgurovic , a wildlife biologist studying turtles for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Most of them don't make it, they're just so banged-up."

Turtles are in particular danger this time of year. It's mating season. Love -- or at least the instinct to reproduce -- is in the air. And that means the shelled creatures are crossing rural and suburban roads, like Bridge Street in Hamilton on the North Shore, to find mates and, soon, build nests.

Inevitably, some won't make it and specialists are now working to make future mating seasons safer for the turtles. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is building "wildlife crossings" for spotted turtles along the 18-mile Greenbush Line, under construction between Braintree and Scituate. At Framingham State College, students are using road kill data from the last 25 years to map the places where turtles are most likely to get run over . And at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst , assistant professor Paul Sievert is building passageways of different sizes and styles. His goal: create a tunnel that turtles will like and use when they need to cross the road.

"They do a lot of things both as herbivores and carnivores," said Sievert. "They're eating fish in ponds, salamanders, salamander eggs, frogs, frog eggs. Snapping turtles can eat ducklings. They're playing an important role in the food chain. And if you remove that link, it's hard to predict whether things will go awry or not."

Turtles have been around for millions of years and until recently had been doing fine. Once full-grown, they've historically been pretty much indestructible. When threatened, they disappear into their shells. And, as such, they survive. Turtles have been known to live up to 100 years.

But as rural areas have become more suburban, turtles are increasingly becoming targets, said Lori Erb , a turtle conservation biologist for MassWildlife. With more development comes more roads, she said. And with more roads, more turtle casualties.

Since 2001, Erb said, 875 turtles have been found -- dead or alive -- on Massachusetts roads and countless more have died without being documented. It's especially a problem in eastern Massachusetts, Erb said, where a growing population increases the chances that a turtle will be squashed while trying to get to a neighboring pond or wetland.

"Most mating is opportunistic," Erb said. "So they have, perhaps, a typical area that they'll aggregate in. But it's more or less whoever they happen to bump into."

Once a turtle has mated, the female then wanders off in search of warm soil or an open space, creating yet another opportunity to stare down a Ford Explorer. And here's where evolution fails them.

"They have to go across land, over the road," said Virginia Cookson , a member of the Hamilton Conservation Commission. "And they get smushed."

This month, Cookson said, she has found the remnants of three turtles on Bridge Street, near the Miles River , in Hamilton. The handmade "Turtle X-ing" sign that someone recently placed on a telephone pole there apparently isn't helping.

But signs have helped elsewhere. In Norfolk, where there are four official turtle crossing signs, Ellen Friedman , a local turtle lover, said she gets far fewer calls to collect injured turtles than she once did. In the last three summers, she said, she's received one call, compared to the five or six she once received every season.

"We get a lot of laughs when people come through town," Friedman said. "But, truly, people are more aware of it."

The turtles will probably need all the help they can get. It has been estimated that they travel about 33 feet per minute. That means that a turtle would need roughly a minute to cross a two-lane road, Sievert said .

The problem, Sievert conceded, is that it would certainly take longer, what with cars passing and turtles pausing or retreating into their shells. Those who find a turtle in the road should ferry it, when possible, in the direction it was going.

They may not fear traffic, but turtles know where they're headed, and they'll do what it takes to get there. "If that means crossing a double-lane highway , they'll cross it," Grgurovic said.

The squished don't typically live and learn. But there are a few lucky ones.

"Hi, sweetie," Maureen Murray whispered to an injured painted turtle this week as she held him inside the wildlife clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton.

The painted turtle is one of several that people have brought to the clinic this spring.

"They're really amazing creatures, one of the oldest creatures on the planet," Murray said. "It's really quite heartbreaking that they've been around for so long and the thing that's killing them -- or at least one of the things -- is cars."

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