Trapped Turtle in Trouble

While on a job-site with two other gentlemen, we all noticed a male eastern box turtle stuck in between a super silt fence.  His claws were embedded in the fabric, and the turtle was able to negotiate moving along the taut fabric and fence.

A super silt fence is a type of erosion and sediment control fencing that is partially buried within a ditch and back-filled, and used to hold back any construction related sediment from flowing off-site and damaging receiving waters.

The poor box turtle was pressed between the filter fabric and the fence, with no way to get out.  The fence fabric is rolled and bound over the top of the fence and clamped, so that the fabric cannot come undone.  Either the turtle found a way in from the fabric or fence side and could not find a way out, or the the turtle was in hibernation at the time of install and rose through the fencing soil slot and found himself between the fabric and fence.

Walking both sides of the fence, we could find no possible access points, as the fencing was well healed-in using a ditch-witch type trencher, whereby the bottom of the fence was installed a good 6 to 8-inches below grade.

Nothing to do but to cut the fabric with a knife and pull him out.

The turtle immediately retracted into his shell, and did not come out for a photo opportunity.  His shell was dirty, and he may have been quite hungry and thirsty.  The turtle was now free to access nearby water and mushrooms to feed on.  It’s a male because he had red eyes and an indentation on his plastron, used when mounting a female for procreation.

I’ve done lots of herpetology (amphibians and reptiles) surveys, and have used forest floor flashing to guide herps, especially salamanders and frogs into pitfall traps, and I’ve always assumed that silt fencing can act as a barrier to direct small animal movement.  I’ve seen many an occasion of animal footprints, as critters climb over silt fencing, but I’ve never seen an animal trapped in-between super silt fencing.

Lucky day for the resident turtle, and which made for an interesting natural history observation.  Thank you to Bob and John, who participated in today’s salvage operation.