This journey is always precarious, and turtles get hurt and even smashed by cars. This year, the crossing was even more dangerous because the new metal turtle crossing signs, while attractive, weren't visible enough to drivers and because the new retention basin by Parking Lot 60 is surrounded by a chain link fence that was so close to the ground that turtles simply couldn't squeeze under it to reach the desirable more sandy slopes.
The first SOS call was raised by Mickey Schaefer, a UW alumni and teacher for 36 years, who bikes along Lakeshore Path almost every day and loves the wildlife there. On Friday afternoon she helped care for a turtle run over by a car; she got animal rescue involved, and she called me at home that the usual large sandwich board sign with the SLOW - Turtle Crossing was missing. By that time on Friday, the university was winding down for the weekend. But Gary Brown, Preserve Director, whom I contacted, got personally involved and confirmed that the current metal signs were too small to be seen.
"We saw 4 turtles--2 snapping, 2 smaller ones--all had walked into the Chain link fence that is bordering the bike path. They are attempting to get on the other side of the fence:( The poor large snapping turtle, started putting his head thru the chain links in attempt to get over to other side--which appears to be like a pond."
The turtle got stuck. Other people put themselves into danger of being bitten by the snapping turtle when they tried to help.
Mickey wrote me later that day: "Co-existing with our wonderful wildlife is important and I so hope that something can and will be done to help this situation. ..... I want to believe that everyone who is a part of this, will do what it takes to help these poor animals whose lives and habitat have been altered. "
Gary Brown, representing the UW, received the report still on Sunday, with the request if something can be done to adjust the fence so that the turtles can complete their crossing successfully. The very next morning on Monday, we were out again to inspect the situation.
Thanks to Gary Brown's swift action - he must have pushed a magic button - there was the fence crew, lifting up the long, long chain link fence one foot above the ground, all the way, as shown on the map. The crew told us they also rescued three turtles who got stuck over night. They have stories to tell.
Gary Brown wasn't done yet. He also initiated something about the signage. Today, at each end of the crossing, drivers on University Bay Drive cannot help but noticing the very large sandwich board sign with its handsome turtle. Most everyone loves the turtles and welcomes the alert.
This weekend story is a great example of effective community involvement and responsive university management. Mickey Schaefer wrote:
"Wow, this is good news! Thank you! Gosh, ....Honestly, there are really good people in this world and you just tend to forget that if you watch the daily news."
There you have it. Mickey Schaefer and Gary Brown made a real difference. Thank you! All is well again in turtle land.
PS. Never touch a snapping turtle. They have an incredibly long neck, very strong jaws, and snap in all directions.