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Nature & You: What are your plans for Earth Day?

Sometimes a little box turtle can find itself in a perilous situation on the roadway. [Oklahoman Archives Photo]
Sometimes a little box turtle can find itself in a perilous situation on the roadway. [Oklahoman Archives Photo]

Some holidays are big and spectacular; yet other holidays are of minor importance. 

As for me, one of the most significant annual events is coming up Saturday:  Earth Day festivities. 

It is our yearly celebration of all that is good and life-affirming about the ecological health of this big, blue planet we all share.

Let me be so bold as to make a suggestion on what you might do as an activity for Earth Day.

For this undertaking, almost any antiques store will do. Go inside and ask to speak to one of their personnel. Tell them you want to inquire as to whether they have any 1930s-era buffalo nickels for sale. In particular, you will be searching for those ancient coins that have been carried in peoples' trouser pockets for so long that the date of issue has long since worn off the coin. From a coin-collector's perspective, these undated coins are virtually worthless, but what do you care? The worn-to-a-frazzle coins can be bought by you for a mere pittance of what price they would normally muster.

That done, you'll want to put this coin in your automobile. It will come in handy when you happen to come upon box turtles that are stranded in the middle of busy highways.

When you see these little armored creatures in a situation where they are in danger of being squished, you'll want to pull over onto the road shoulder and wait for the traffic to subside. Please keep your personal safety uppermost in your mind. No turtle's life is worth the risk of a pedestrian-vehicle collision.

Lots and lots of people do this turtle-rescue sort of thing without any encouragement whatsoever from me. It is just something that our compassionate nature impels us to do.

What I would caution you to do, however, is to not put the turtle in your vehicle and then transport them to some release point that is miles and miles away from where you first encountered them. Box turtles are stick-in-the-muds; they very rarely venture very far from home. Box turtles have a very-reduced home range, and they are intimately familiar with all of the good places to go for something good to eat and where they might secrete themselves when winter's fury returns. That is why it is a bad idea for you to take them away from their familiar haunts.

I commend you, of course, for snatching them out of harm's way. That is your good deed for the day.

Move the turtle to the roadside ditch to which they were headed. Your objective is to help them along their way, rather than adding trauma and confusion to their existence.

"What if it is unclear in which direction they intended to travel?" you might ask. 

Well, that is why I encouraged you to purchase that buffalo nickel. Flip that coin into the air and catch it when it falls. Heads means the turtle was headed to the left; tails indicates just the opposite.

Happy Earth Day!

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›