Turtles, turtles, yah, yah, yah!

If we apply the Six Degrees of Separation rule to this tale, Evelynn has the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to thank for saving her life.

Those Heroes in a Half Shell took North America by storm! Ask any kid of the 80s and they’ll tell you it was totally tubular, dude! Every Halloween, we were shelling out to the shelled because dressing up as a butt-kicking turtle was the rad fad back then. It was Turtlemania.

But for one little boy now grown, it still is.

Marc Ouellette was so charged up with turtle power, he used his allowance to bring home his first Red-Eared Slider after spotting him at a garage sale. Apollo is roughly 23 years old now and Marc remains his biggest fan…even if he has to share his owner’s devotion with about 99 other turtles.

Apollo, albeit slow and methodical in his approach (as turtles tend to be with just about everything), inspired Marc to turn his childhood obsession into his life’s work.

In February, 2008, Little RES Q came out of its shell! Marc had become the proud founder of a highly regarded rescue organization for pet turtles and other reptiles.

While a variety of reptiles, including Geckos and even a six foot Boa Constrictor, continue to slither their way into the rescue’s expert care, it is the turtle and especially the Slider holding the majority. In fact, ‘RES’ of the rescue’s name stands for Red-Eared Slider.

To date, Little RES Q has rescued 600 turtles with 100 currently in Marc’s personal care and 50 more on a waiting list. There are many reasons for these staggering numbers but I’ll use Sparticus to explain the main one.

Sparty is the poster turtle for Little RES Q. She’s also an educational tool, attending presentations with Marc at the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Reptile Expo each year, and SPCA events.

Weighing in at 7 lbs, Sparty is more than twice the size of the average turtle. She’s proof they don’t stay little. The more they grow, the greater the responsibility. Then, there’s longevity to think about. Be prepared to include the family turtle in your will because they can live up to 50 years! During that lifetime, turtle needs a 90+ gallon aquarium fully loaded with UV lights and filters. Being semi-aquatic, turtle also needs dry land in her tank for basking. A well-balanced diet of pellets, fish, worms (and don’t forget vitamins!) is essential too.

Unfortunately, not everybody does their research pre-turtle. The consequences can be dire and not just for the turtle. Many overwhelmed owners release their unwanted pets into our rivers and streams, the Sliders being the most common of the banished. But Sliders are not from Canada. They’re mass-produced in the U.S.  With a native habitat spanning Ohio to Mexico, these generalists can adapt to a wide range of climates. That’s the problem. Sliders are among the top most invasive species, capable of taking over the natural habitats of our own native species. This is why it’s illegal to release Sliders into the wild. But it’s also illegal to cross the border with them, making rescue groups like Marc’s so vital.

Working closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Marc and his foster families offer a safe and controlled environment for discarded non-native turtles. He’s also a port-in-the-storm for victims like Evelynn pictured here.

It was Christmas Eve last year when this young female Slider slid her way to safety with Marc. The story is a murky one. It’s also heartbreaking. She’d apparently been saved by a young man who claimed her owner had immersed her in either boiling water or a harsh chemical solution. The result was devastating. Her exposed neck and limbs were severely and painfully burned. Marc rushed her to his veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets. It took time and antibiotics but aside from inevitable scarring, Evy has made a full recovery. I can attest to that.

She arrived for her interview in a lunch cooler. It makes for safe, comfy travel! But as soon as she was in my home, Miss Curious couldn’t resist popping her head out for a look-see.

It’s not every day my beagles come nose to shell with a turtle. As humiliated as they would be to read this, they were clearly more afraid of her than she of them. Not surprising. Marc had adopted a beagle a year ago. The novelty has worn off, nothing for this turtle to get shell-shocked about.

Despite all she’s been through, Evy refuses to be a snappy turtle. She’s one shell of a nice gal! The moment her webbed feet met the floor, she was off to explore beagle land! Forget what they say about turtles being slowpokes. She’d win a race with my beagles any time.

Indeed, Evelynn has all the bodacious skills of a Ninja turtle – adventurous, fearless, swift and sassy! Cowabunga! Who says make-believe heroes can’t turn into real ones?!

Evelynn is a young adult Red-Eared Slider splish-splashing it up with her tank-mates at Little RES Q, www.littleresq.net . To adopt Evy, foster a turtle, or make a donation, visit this world class webbed site to learn how!

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