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Snapping turtle spotted twice crossing roads in Orono

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The Founder
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Snapping turtle spotted twice crossing roads in Orono

Snapping turtle spotted twice crossing roads in Orono

Why did the snapping turtle cross the road? Apparently to find a suitable place to lay her eggs.

Twice in as many days this week, a snapping turtle has made an appearance on the pavement in Orono, drawing some curiosity and concern by residents and police for the reptile's safety.

The turtle's first appearance was on Wednesday afternoon on Myrtle Street, where she has somewhat affectionately been named Myrtle the Turtle by police and dispatchers at the Penobscot Regional Communications Center in Bangor.

Affection is not normally a word associated with snapping turtles, and Myrtle lived up to her name when Orono police Officer Casey Miller approached the turtle for a closer look on Wednesday. Miller, who has faced unruly people and intoxicated motorists, admittedly found himself in a new situation.

"I have never dealt with a turtle before," the officer said, describing the turtle as being about a foot long, wrinkly and - to put it bluntly - ugly.

Miller got closer to the turtle, but not too close.

"As soon as I got close to her, she pretty much freaked out," he said Thursday. The snapping turtle began flopping around and, of course, snapped at the officer.

Before Miller arrived, Myrtle had moved from the middle of the road, where a local resident thought she was laying eggs, to the relative safety of the side of the road. Miller called in for some expert handling, the Maine Warden Service. When wardens contacted the officer to tell her they were on the way, Myrtle already had made her move and worked her way to some standing water.

End of story, or so Miller thought.

On Thursday morning shortly after 7, Miller was walking to her cruiser when a motorist drove up to the police station to report that a turtle was in the parking lot of Pat's Pizza.

"I went down there and sure enough, it was Myrtle," Miller said. The turtle had crossed at least one other street to get where she was, in the middle of the parking lot and still on the move.

"She was just moseying along," the officer said.

The woman who had contacted police about the turtle said she had tried to scoop the turtle up with a shovel, but Myrtle would have nothing to do with that, and the reptile "just kept snapping at her," Miller was told.

Miller said a good Samaritan from the University of Maine arrived later to scoop up the turtle into a trash container and then return Myrtle back to a more aquatic habitat.

Malcolm Hunter, a University of Maine professor of wildlife ecology, hadn't heard about Myrtle on Thursday but was not surprised by her presence on the roads.

June is the time these turtles lay their eggs, he said, although turtles wouldn't be laying them on the roads, preferring a sunny, sandy place in which to dig a hole and bury the eggs.

"It's quite common to see them crossing roads or along road sides this time of year," he said.

Myrtle likely was using the road much the way anyone would, to get from one place to another. Unfortunately, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for turtles.

In the southern Maine habitats of the endangered spotted and Blanding's turtles, ecologists have gone so far as to put up warning signs urging motorists to slow down and watch out for the turtles. One of Hunter's graduate students is studying ways to curb road-related turtle deaths, he said.

Snapping turtles aren't on the endangered list, so don't expect such warning signs any time soon, Hunter said.

For Miller, whose police department has been called in to investigate raccoons, bears in yards and coyotes, the time she has spent with Myrtle has been a quirky reminder of just how close nature is to town.

"We're surrounded by wilderness," the officer said.

Post Fri 23 Jun, 2006 10:40 am 
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Chub Fisherman
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Joined: 14 Mar 2006
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Location: Hancock County

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Heres one that was in Logging road last week......

Post Fri 23 Jun, 2006 1:26 pm 
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