Shelley's Story

Shelley's Story: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Milestone #1 | Milestone #2 | Milestone #3 | Milestone #4

Part 1: Meet Shelley

Meet Shelley. Shelley is a Midland Painted Turtle, which is a species at risk (aka a species facing the threat of extinction). She lives in one of the very few thriving ponds near London, ON where she spends most of her days throughout the year. This pond (aka “Shelley’s pond”) provides an abundance of aquatic insects, tadpoles, algae, duckweed, and other vegetation to keep Shelley well fed. She especially loves the satisfying crunch of the occasional snail. Shelley’s pond also has many other wonderful features, such as logs and rocks to sun bathe with her turtle friends, Snappy and Blandina, and cattails and other vegetation to provide cover from predators.

Shelley recently came out of hibernation (you’ll have to imagine that winter has already come and gone) where she met a nice fellow. They fell in love and decided to have children. This fellow lived in a different pond that he needed to return to. Shelley didn’t want to go – her pond was just too good to leave - so she wished her love all the best and settled back into her everyday routine.

As spring came along, Shelley knew she was going to become a mother and that she would soon need to find a suitable site to lay her eggs. She needed a spot with sandy and gravelly material well above the water line and warmed by the sun.  Once she found the right place, she would dig a nest to lay her clutch of small, oval-shaped eggs and then bury them to keep them moist and warm while they develop. In a couple of months, her hatchlings would be born fully equipped to survive on their own and require no parental care once they made it out of the nest, meaning the most important thing for Shelley to do now was to find the best spot for her nest. And so, when the timing felt right (late May/early June), Shelley left her sweet life at the pond in search of a nesting site.



Part 2: The Dangers

We last left Shelley in search of a proper nesting site for her soon-to-be-lain clutch of eggs. This meant leaving the comforts of her own pond and facing many dangers, big and small.

I should mention that Shelley isn’t exceptionally large – approx. 12.4 cm to be exact –and she’s good at hiding and blending in with her surroundings, with her smooth dark green shell with subtle red markings at the edges and dark skin with red lines on her body and yellow stripes on her head. She’s also not very fast – on a good day she can manage 0.3 km/hr – and has next-to-no defence mechanisms (other than tucking herself into her shell).

Shelley’s size makes her a prime target for large carnivorous and omnivorous animals. Luckily, the first stretch of area to cover had lots of low-lying plants to shield her from sharp eyes. A few times, someone got too close, so she hid in her shell until they went away. Things were going pretty well until she met her next challenge: a paved parking lot. There was little-to-no plant cover here, and large metal objects moved around from time to time. It wasn’t so very big, and Shelly was able to safely trek across the lot where she found a bit of shelter to rest.

After her rest, she began her journey again and stumbled upon an open farm field. She had no cover to hide her from flying predators and no water to jump in and swim quickly away. This was the only way to where she needed to go, so Shelley took the risk. She made it safely through the field without much disturbance from other creatures.

Shelley still hadn’t found what she is looking for (aka loose sandy, gravelly soil situated uphill and nearby a slow-moving waterbody), when she encountered her next and most dangerous endeavor: crossing a busy, paved roadway.


Part 3: Meeting Milestones

We last left off with Shelley making her daring journey to find a suitable nesting site when she was all of a sudden met with her greatest challenge yet: a busy, paved roadway. She could feel it in her bones that the best nesting place was on the other side of that road, so she made the difficult decision to try to cross it. Unlike the parking lot, the large metal objects were moving at higher speeds and didn’t seem to notice her in the grass along the side of the road. Scared but determined, Shelley extends her front leg and...


Milestone #1 ($5,000)

...placed it firmly back on the ground from where it came. The fear had gotten to her.

After a few moments of silent self encouragement, Shelley found the courage to finally take her first steps across the road. Fortunately for her, only two of those large metal objects passed her by, both noticing her, slowing down, and giving her plenty of room to cross. She made it to the first milestone, safe and sound! One down, three to go.


Milestone #2 ($10,000)

Shelley was feeling good. The large metal things gave her enough space that she didn't feel like she needed to tuck inside her shell. As long as they kept minding their own business, Shelley wouldn't think too much of them.

Of course, they didn't mind their own business. On her way to Milestone #2, Shelley had a few close calls. The ones that saw her still gave her plenty of space and went around her, but there were a few that went right over her. The first time it happened, Shelley thought she was a goner! She closed her eyes, tucked herself inside her shell, and held her breath until she realized she was okay. It was at this point she discovered that the large metal objects had space underneath of them, enough space to accommodate her size without making contact.

This new knowledge was only semi-comforting to Shelley as she was still buffeted by the wind that was created by the quickly moving metal objects. She started to see more and more of these objects as she made it to the halfway mark at the yellow line.


Milestone #3 ($15,000)

The first few steps from the halfway mark were no joke – several of the large metal objects shouted at her. Can you believe that?! At first she was frightened - she hid in her shell a couple of times, but that seemed to make them more angry. Then, she was confused - Shelley didn't know the language of the metal objects. Finally, Shelley gave up trying to communicate and refocused her efforts on getting across the road.

Someone saw that Shelley was having a hard time and decided to stop and help. Unfortunately, this person had never helped a turtle before and didn’t know where to start. Shelley heard them exclaim, “Drat! I should have gone to one of TTLT’s Turtle Guardians workshops.”

Shelley looked at the large metal object with the voice and saw that it had begun to flash. Little did Shelley know that this talking object had stopped in the lane Shelley was in, put on their 4-ways, and was holding up traffic to let Shelley get by. This act of kindness helped Shelley to pull herself together and make it safely to Milestone #3.


Milestone #4 ($20,000)

By now, Shelley was feeling pretty confident. The large metal objects were only moving behind her and at a slower pace. Some of them were still shouting at her, but the motionless, blinking one that spoke earlier made her feel safe.

As she continued her journey, a large, shiny land animal walking on two legs started to approach her. It would seem that one of the people caught up in the traffic had figured out what was going on and had taken the Turtle Guardians workshop, and was ready to help. This person knew that you should never put yourself in danger, even to help a turtle, and that holding up traffic is not exactly safe. After pulling over, putting on their 4-ways, and donning a high-vis vest they kept in their car for this exact purpose, the shiny land mammal waited for a safe gap in the traffic and approached Shelley. Using the sandwich method* (i.e. holding Shelley on either side like a sandwich), the shiny two-legged animal gently lifted Shelly a few inches from the ground and carried her in the direction she was heading. Shelley had no idea what was going on, so she tucked herself into her shell, hoping that the maneuver would save her.

The next thing Shelley knew, she was placed on the ground in the lush ditch grass and the shiny animal had walked away. She poked her head out to make sure the coast was clear and hightailed it as fast as she could towards her destination.

With one last glance behind her, Shelley looked at her shiny roadside assistant and gave a warm smile. She walked away to a bewildered voice asking, “Did that turtle just smile at me!?” Why yes, yes she did.

*The Sandwich Method is not appropriate for Snapping Turtles.

Thank you for helping Shelley cross the road this Giving Tuesday