March of the turtles

Living amongst wildlife allows us to witness annual events that occur naturally, despite the influences of human development. Roads, buildings, and carbon footprints affect nature’s course in a multitude of ways, yet somehow “many” plants and animals manage to adapt and survive.

One of my favorite events is watching the turtles make their journey from the swamps to the soft gravel roads, to lay eggs.

Painted turtles are the most prolific in our area and often bury their eggs alongside the nearest gravel roads while dodging vehicles. The Moose Pond road that leads to the Saganaga boat launch is an infamous spot for this yearly ritual, and fortunately vehicles are forced to travel slowly on this winding road.

Snapping turtles, which are also common to Minnesota’s North Woods, often choose to lay their eggs along roadside shoulders as well and will return to the same spot to deposit and bury their eggs each year.

Gunflint Trail Fire Chief Jim Morrison happens to live where a big snapping turtle risks crossing the highway to lay her eggs on the other side of the road adjacent his home, and has often helped the turtle with its risky crossing. I mentioned this to him last season when I noticed the big snapper taking a break on the center line of the Gunflint Trail, and he spoke of the turtle like an old friend who only visits once a year.

“Unorganized Territory” means a lot more to Gunflint Trail residents than a zoning classification, it is a testament that humans are able to survive amongst wildlife with as little adverse impact as possible. Thanks to residents like Jim who pay attention to their surroundings and do their part to protect and aid whenever they see development affect nature. Thanks, Jim.