'Tina' the turtle back home in Dryden after Sudbury sojourn to heal a cracked shell
All of Ontario's turtles are either endangered or of special concern
A more than 2,000 kilometre journey for one wounded reptile has come full circle, with a few twists along the way.
A western painted turtle some of her handlers have dubbed "Tina" is back home and healthy in Dryden, Ont. after two months in Sudbury.
She'd spent the past number of weeks at Sudbury's Turtle Pond Wildlife Centre recovering from a cracked shell.
Former turtle rescue volunteer Alison Bezubiak coordinated the creature's round-trip from Dryden to Sudbury and back.
After receiving a call from Turtle Pond's Gloria Morissette, informing her the turtle was ready to go home, Bezubiak figured it was good timing that she'd just booked a commercial plane ticket from Sudbury to Dryden only to run into an obstacle.
"The airline would not budge on its cats and dogs policy — no turtles allowed," recalled Bezubiak with a chuckle.
But another company, Bearskin Airlines, agreed to take the turtle on board.
Bezubiak collected a few donations from family members and friends to pay for the creature's $100 plane ticket.
"If you have an opportunity to help something out and it's going to have positive results, why not? I feel it wasn't a huge, massive inconvenience for anybody involved. Everybody just kind of wanted to pitch in in any way they could," she explained.
Once they were both back and reunited in Dryden. Bezubiak knew she had to release the turtle within one kilometre of where it was picked up.
That area was along the side of Highway 694 near Mud Bay, which is part of Wabigoon Lake.
"I didn't want to put her back near the road where she was found," said Bezubiak.
Once the winds died down on Friday evening, Bezubiak and a friend put a boat in the water and headed to Mud Bay.
"She was in a hurry to go home," said Bezubiak with a laugh. "They [turtles] have a really, really strong homing instinct, and before I brought her back, she was just scrambling around in her container. She could probably sense how close she was."
Small gesture, long lasting impact
By law, animals who've been treated for injury must be released back into the habitat where they were picked up.
As a whole, Ontario is home to eight species of turtles. All eight are either endangered or of special concern.
"Ontario turtles are in such a bad way right now, their conservation status," said Bezubiak. "So every little bit that you can do — if you're able to save an adult turtle, it's a huge contribution to their population."
"I think I will attempt to petition for turtle crossing signs in that area, because where she was a hit is a pretty high-traffic area for both cars and turtles."
She added she'll be keeping her eyes open for a familiar sight from now on.
"It's a beautiful spot, we travel there a lot in the kayak and the boat, so it will be nice to go back down there and pretend the turtles we see are her," said Bezubiak.
"I took a picture of her shell . She did get hit by a car and has pretty distinct scarring across her shell that's healed up now — so if I see turtles around there, I can compare to that photo to see if it is her."
While recovering from her wounds in Sudbury, the turtle also laid a clutch of eggs.
If they survive — and Bezubiak said she likes their chances — the hatchling turtles will one day make the same trip their mother did.
"They'll have to come back to Dryden too, so it's not over," said Bezubiak with a laugh.