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SL Township staff rescues toilet turtle

Marie Havenga • Jun 23, 2018 at 4:00 PM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Township Water Department employee Scott Rochon got a huge shock, but fortunately not a huge snap, when he entered a portable toilet in the Arcadia housing development off 148th Avenue.

He wasn't alone.

As he peered into the hole beneath the toilet seat, he saw a huge snapping turtle.

“Whoever put him in there also had a big stick stuck in the hole,” said Rochon, who was performing water samples at the subdivision. “I pushed on him (to see if he was alive). He kicked and turned. I wanted him out of there, but I had to be somewhere. I didn't have time to mess with him.”

Rochon called fellow township employees Brendon O'Hara and Eric Erhorn to assist the turtle.

Rochon said whoever dumped the turtle in the toilet must have had a difficult time, because the 16-inch diameter shell was about the size of the toilet opening.

When O'Hara and Erhorn arrived a short time later, they thought the turtle was dead.

“It turns out it was still alive,” O'Hara said. “We used big, black rubber gloves and fished it out. We washed it off with a jug of water trying to get all the blue dye (chemical deodorizer) off. I'm not sure what's in that stuff, but it's probably not the best for a turtle.”

After the rinse job, O'Hara said the turtle perked up.

“It was acting more appropriately and starting to show more life,” he said. “We took it to a nearby pond in Arcadia and left it on the bank. When I came back a few hours later to check on it, it was gone. We assumed it crawled away on its own and went back to whatever turtles do, not being in toilets.”

O'Hara said it's highly unlikely the turtle landed in the toilet himself. For one, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a turtle to open the springed portable toilet door, let alone crawl to the top of the seat.

“There's no way it got in there on its own,” O'Hara said. “It's an empty subdivision so there aren't that many people living there at this point. It's kind of a mean thing, whoever did this.”

O'Hara said leaving the turtle in the toilet was not an option.

“We felt so bad for it,” O'Hara said. “We couldn't knowingly leave it there. Plus, it's a safety issue – you think about someone sitting down to use it. I don't want to go into details, but you can figure out why that would be a problem.”

Spring Lake Township Department of Public Works Director John Stuparits said he's proud of his crew.

“Our guys felt like this was a terrible place for the turtle to die and that it was unacceptable,” he said. “They put on their long rubber gloves used to clean our pumps at our sewer lift stations, and reached down and removed the very lethargic snapping turtle. I believe they not only did the right thing, but went above and beyond what was expected of them.”

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