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Creature Feature: Turtle Trackers

When highway construction and development threaten to wipe out box turtle populations, The HSUS helps these slowpokes stay one step ahead of the bulldozers

When highway construction and development threaten to wipe out box turtle populations, The HSUS helps these slowpokes stay one step ahead of the bulldozers

You might look worried, too, if construction threatened your habitat. Advocates are trying to locate, move, and save Maryland’s box turtle population. MICHELLE RILEY/THE HSUS
The sight of chewed-up orange mollusks isn’t likely to set most people’s hearts aflutter. But when those goopy remnants dribble from the mouth of an eastern box turtle, Susan Hagood celebrates.

“He’s been eating something—that’s good!” says the wildlife issues specialist from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The object of her affection stares back at her through brilliant red eyes, bright slimy bits framing his satiated face. Hagood pronounces the contents of the day’s breakfast: tasty slug.

The uninitiated may find it puzzling, this adulation of a shy critter shuffling among the leaves of a 1-acre holding pen in the woods of Boyds, Md. He’s a cute turtle, as turtles go, with all the expected features: hard shell, soft insides, and a hinged mechanism that allows him to completely withdraw. He doesn’t look a day under 1,000 years old. In short, he’s no party animal.

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