Normally that’s not the title you want to read, because you can pretty much guess what the awful result is going to be — but this one has a positive outcome.
We were blasting down the road, happily headed for a day of exploration and family bonding in Death Valley National Park, when we flashed by a lump in the middle of the road. We all shouted at the same time while my dad was driving, “STOP!!! That’s a desert tortoise!!!” We quickly came to a halt and rushed back, taking care to not run over the petrified creature.
Fortunately, it was still somewhat early and we were a few miles ahead of the morning rush into the park, so we got out and took a number of photos, then picked the tortoise up and carried it to the side of the road that it had been trying to reach, making sure that it was safely on its way before leaving the scene. Please note: even though it is unlawful to touch, harm, harass, or collect wild desert tortoises, we moved this one to safety to prevent it from being killed by traffic. And we were glad we did, as a number of other cars passed us while we watched the tortoise slowly meander off into the scrub.
We checked in later at a National Park Service ranger station further within the park and discovered that they want visitors to report certain animals that are spotted, particularly desert tortoises — because they are so rare to be seen. In fact, the ranger we spoke to said that in the 15-years that they had been working in Death Valley National Park, they had never seen a desert tortoise in person. This one appears to have been of the Gopherus agassizii species, and you can read all about them here.
I hope this one was able to continue living a long life, as I’ve seen too many other turtles and tortoises suffer injuries or death from cars.