Shelter Island is full of nature’s great treasures, beginning with the pristine blue saltwater that surrounds us, and within, the meadows and forests in our preserves that include Mashomack, the forty acres in the middle of Ram Island, and the vast green open spaces that are a result of the 2% Community Preservation Trust transfer tax. The 2% transfer tax is a good cause that buyers contribute to when purchasing property.
Within this virgin land are flora, fauna, and all manner of small creatures which co-exist with us and every so often show themselves on our roads, putting themselves at risk with “civilization.”
Because of their slow pace, camouflaged shell and size, turtles are at the top of the list for being injured or worse, killed. In May, turtles can wander a great distance in search of a nest to lay eggs, often on the side of a road, or on a lawn where they can be in danger of being hit by a lawn mower or sprayed with pesticides.
Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, Inc. a non-profit organization located in Jamesport, works in coordination with local veterinarians to help injured turtles which need to be healed, as well as those which are critically injured and need to be euthanized.
The slow metabolism of the turtle can be a blessing but also a complication when they are injured beyond hope, as it often takes days for them to pass on. Karen Testa, the Executive Director of the Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, said that it is best to bring any injured turtle to a vet to be examined and assisted, rather than to assume it has passed on and leave it.
Turtle Rescue currently has over 100 turtles in their care. Many will return to health and be released, hopefully to the location where they were found, as turtles are territorial. Others, which would not survive in the wild, will spend the rest of their lives in rehabilitation.
Shelter Island, Testa said, ranks high on the list for most injured turtles which have come to her sanctuary in the last year or so. Whether this translates to a large number of caring Shelter Islanders who bring injured turtles to her, or a high rate of accidents compared to other East End towns is unknown.
Each summer, along with so many other Shelter Island neighbors, I stop to help turtles cross the road. The safest method is to stop with the turtle in front of the car, turn hazard lights on, and assist it; carrying it in the direction it is headed.
Snapping turtles cannot retract their heads into their shells to protect themselves, and instead have the ability to bite with incredible force, using their tail to maneuver them up toward you. With snapping turtles, it is often best to direct oncoming traffic around the turtle until it is out of harm’s way.
Sadly, this week I came upon a turtle on Ram Island so badly injured it needed to be euthanized and another completely crushed at the busy 4-way stop at New York Avenue.
The Turtle Rescue Center of the Hamptons is looking for volunteers to be on call to bring injured turtles to the nearest vet. I posted a photo of the turtle I found on Ram Island with its story on social media and many Islanders have already offered to help. Our island is a special place, filled with kind-hearted people who appreciate our wildlife.
IF YOU CAN ASSIST, PLEASE CALL – Karen Testa at 631-779-3737