By Sue Tiffin
Published June 6 2017
What appeared to be a nun holding a shopping bag and an umbrella attempting to help a wounded snapping turtle cross the street caused traffic to slow down on County Road 1 on May 29. And that’s exactly what Wendy Ladurantaye wanted.
Ladurantaye was headed to Extendicare in Haliburton that evening to sing with the Anglican Parish of Minden Kinmount and Maple Lake’s Sister Act-themed choir. She slowed her car when she saw the turtle who looked to have a broken jaw.
“I was going by that turtle and I realized nobody was stopping” said Ladurantaye. “I couldn’t go by him. I was thinking ‘what if someone smucks him I’m going to feel really bad.’”
Ladurantaye pulled over to help despite being dressed not in street clothes but as a nun for the night’s choir performance.
Keeping safety in mind retreating from the road when a car was coming Ladurantaye found a shopping bag and umbrella in the back of her car. Her idea was to coax the turtle onto the bag and then latch the umbrella onto the bag handle to pull it – along with the turtle – across the street. But the turtle wasn’t having it.
Most drivers slowing to pass the area gave a second look when they saw Ladurantaye in full costume. A few began pulling over.
“All you need is a couple of cars to stop” she said. ”Some people went awfully fast.”
Beth Irwin and Laurie Curry arrived on the scene and grabbed what they had in their cars to help gently guide the turtle to safety – a snow brush and a hockey stick.
“Only in the Highlands would you find the three essentials of life in your trunk. Snow brush. Umbrella. Hockey stick” said Irwin. “There really is something in the water.”
This isn’t the first time Ladurantaye in costume has stopped to help.
A few years ago she was on the way to choir at St. James in Kinmount.
“I got in my full costume because I wanted to be able to just arrive go in and be singing” she said.
Again on County Road 1 Ladurantaye saw two people standing by the side of the road.
“Their van was upside down against a tree they had hit black ice” she said.
Ladurantaye noted the driver and passenger were in shock but likely even more so to see her running toward them in her nun’s habit – especially when a fellow choir goer also dressed in costume came to join her.
The turtle rescued on May 29 was taken to Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary and then transported to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough.
“Right now it’s too early to say how the recovery is going” said Courtney Paterson at the OTCC. “But he is getting fluids and pain relief.”
She noted being able to stop safely is essential in turtle rescue and that a car mat can also be used as a stretcher if the turtle can be lured onto it. Turtles should always be left going in the same direction they’re headed.
“It might not make sense to us why the turtle is in the area but it knows exactly where it is going” she said. Turtles often travel at this time looking for new territory mates or nesting areas.
Paterson noted the centre is busy with rescued turtle numbers jumping from 100 to 188 over the weekend. Turtles being rehabilitated have come to the centre from throughout Ontario and Quebec.
More information about the OTCC can be found at ontarioturtle.ca.
The Sister Act-style choir will be singing the national anthem at Canada Day festivities on July 1 in Minden.
Beth Irwin recounted the moments after the turtle had been safely removed from the road and she returned to the scene with her son Adam.
“The employee at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary asked that we get a large plastic container and a shovel to scoop and transport the injured turtle. My son Adam has always made a special habit of stopping for turtles and keeps a visual diary on his iPhone – I knew he would be game.
"We quickly travelled back to the ditch where we directed the turtle moments before and found it mobile. Adam manoeuvred the container and shovel enough to gently encourage him in…the poor turtle's jaw and snout were broken. He lifted it into my trunk…that was easy. Just five minutes down the road another turtle was crossing. Adam had to use some very clever driving to avert another tragedy. We stopped quickly and so did another car. The woman happened to be a Woodlands volunteer so she ensured the second turtle made it safely across the road. What were the chances?
"Going back to our car to continue the journey we thought we would check the huge passenger out…we opened the trunk and it was gone! Have you ever lost a snapper in your car? With the movement to not crush the second turtle the plastic container toppled over and I had a big snapper taking a tour!
"There really wasn’t a good solution to the predicament so we just carried on. We made it to the sanctuary where the employee was able to lift the turtle out of the trunk. She mentioned the miracle repairs that are performed at the turtle conservation centre in Peterborough. Right down to returning the turtle from whence it came (Barnum Lake) the sanctuary will ensure the best possible outcome.
"I must tell you that just minutes before we arrived to help this turtle I noticed a young man in an orange construction shirt helping another jay walker! Kudos to him. I will always remember how pleased he was to help. ‘Tis the season…
"My son guessed the turtle to have been 30 years old. What were you doing in 1987? So glad a few caring people gathered to honour those three decades that Haliburton’s natural habitat has delivered for all to enjoy. You know It really was not what I was hoping to do after a long day however it took just a little time and I made a most wonderful memory with my son. What an adventure and great investment.”