- story by Ellis Anderson
Kent and Cynthia Miller’s large yard on Main Street in the Bay has become an unofficial turtle sanctuary. Cynthia often posts photos of her hard-shelled neighbors on Facebook with captions like “We found a new turtle in the yard today!”
The Millers apparently have an entire posse of turtles free-ranging on their property and have even named a few. Most are Gulf Coast Box Turtles.
According to Christy Milbourne of Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue, the species can live to well over 100 years and generally stay in the neighborhood in which they were hatched. That means some of the Millers' turtles might have lived on Main Street since the early 1900s.
Beach to Bayou
Christy and her husband Luke rehabilitate turtles that have had unfortunate encounters with canines, although most of their patients come from “road carnage.”
They work with veterinarians to nurse the turtles back to health, then release them back in the area where they were found. If their patient is permanently disabled, they care for them until a special needs home can be found.
But dogs and cars aren’t the only foes of turtles. Intentional harm by humans causes some turtle deaths and maimings.
A few misguided fishermen have been known to shoot turtles in the mistaken belief that they’re eating potential catches. Turtles can also be targets for both adults and kids who are practicing firearm skills. And there are the heartless drivers will purposely try to hit a turtle crossing a road.
“Sadly, we do see ones that have been hurt by malice,” says Christy.
Thus began a decade of intensive education, networking with turtle experts around the country, and the adoption of Booboo.
Booboo was a 17-year-old Redfoot Tortoise raised in a small tank by well-intentioned owners in Maryland. Due to a poor diet and his small environment, his shell was deformed enough to prevent use of his back legs. Surrendered to another rescue group, the Milbournes adopted Booboo in 2010. He became a beloved and spoiled member of their family.
According to a veterinarian specialist, Booboo wasn’t in pain, but would have a shorter lifespan. The predication came true, when, despite the pampering from the Milbournes, the tortoise passed away in 2012. His death solidified their dreams of dedicating even more of their time to turtle rescue.
Their website explains why it’s an awful idea to paint turtle shells (their shells are living tissue that will absorb toxins) or remove them from their natural habitats (they’ll spend the rest of their lives trying to get home). The rescue success story page makes for fascinating – and heartwarming – reading.
- Only stop when it’s safe for you and other drivers
- Never pick a turtle up by its tail (they feel pain and you might break their spinal cord)
- Always place it on the side of the road it was headed toward. If you place it back where it came from, the persistent critter will just try again.
For turtle emergencies, simply go to the website’s Contact Us page for instant advice.
“If you come across a wounded turtle, don’t assume it can’t live,” Christy says. “They’re incredibly tough. We work closely with a coast organization called Wild At Heart, so someone can help.”
The website also hosts an informative photo gallery, showing every type of turtle found in the state. According to Christy, the Mississippi coast is home to almost every one of them, 35 species.
Lucky for us – and the Millers.