‘Turtleman’ rescues turtles from roadway danger

Frankford-area resident Ed Shockley has earned the nickname “Turtleman” for his efforts to help turtles safely cross roadways. Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe

DAGSBORO — Delmarva roadways can pose grave danger to people and animals.

Imagine the plight of turtles, which aren’t the speediest creatures on earth.

Fortunately, they have a superhero: Ed Shockley.

The 58-year-old Frankford-area man has earned the nickname “Turtleman” for his heroic efforts to help turtles safely cross roadways.

On his way to or from work as a corrections officer or just out and about, on shopping trips or rock-hiding excursions with his wife Teresa, Mr. Shockley makes it a point to stop when turtles are in apparent peril or danger.

“You see them crossing the road. It seemed like there was a need, just to help,” said Mr. Shockley.

It has been a busy spring. The couple rescued nine turtle over a recent three-day weekend.

“In the past couple weeks, we have saved a lot. I say we. Eddie does the saving. Sometimes I have to stop the traffic or direct the traffic,” Ms. Shockley said. “Eddie has got a trained eye when we ride down the road. Everybody calls him Turtleman.’”

On the back of both of the Shockley vehicles are “I Brake for Turtles” bumper stickers, made by Ms. Shockey’s brother.

Ed Shockley uses a sledgehammer to shove an angry snapping turtle safely off the roadway.

Mr. Shockley has no idea how many turtles, box, painted or snapping variety, he has helped over the past several years. He doesn’t keep a tally.

He just comes to their rescue. Most times, it’s relatively simple. Pick them and move them to safe ground on the other side of the road.

But not always.

Snappers can be an entirely different story.

“The snappers aren’t as grateful. But little box turtles and all, they are like very happy that Eddie has arrived,” said Ms. Shockley.
“Snappers, they could care less if you are saving them or not, that’s for sure. But he saves them all, even when they are mean.”

Sometimes, turtle rescues require innovation and improvisation.

“One day we were coming back from Berlin (Maryland) there was this huge snapper. It was on the dual highway. It was in the northbound lane,” said Ms. Shockley.

It had nearly made it to the safety of the median.

“I’m like, “Eddie, he’s going to be over there in the southbound lane,’” Ms. Shockley said. “He’s like, ‘Well, we got to make a U-turn.’ This turtle was huge. And there was a man that had stopped. Eddie didn’t have anything to scoot him over. So Eddie had a sledgehammer in the back of his truck. This man was probably thinking, ‘Oh my God, this guy is going to kill this turtle with a sledgehammer.’”

The man checked on traffic while Mr. Shockley sprang into action.

“I slid him, with a sledgehammer … almost like a hockey puck. All I had to do was push him. I kept pushing him and pushing him …,” said Mr. Shockley.

He’s had turtles jump at him and even shift into high gear.

“There was one I got behind, and he took off running — literally. I tried to reach back and grab him by the shell to pick him up and move him over, and he took off. The fastest turtle I’ve ever seen in my life. That was one of those painted turtles,” Mr. Shockley said.

Another recent rescue highlight occurred on the highway in Millsboro. “All I heard was Eddie saying was, ‘Oh my God, that little guy is not going to make it,’” said Ms. Shockley. “I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Cars were like zoom, zoom, zoom on both sides, and this turtle was on the yellow line.”

“Right in the middle,” Mr. Shockley said.

The couple turned their vehicle around. “I’m like, ‘Eddie, I don’t want you to die for a turtle.’ He says, ‘He’s not going to make it,’” said Ms. Shockley.

There was a happy ending for all parties.

“Now, that turtle was happy,” said Ms. Shockley.

Mr. Shockley has an idea or two for the wave of recent turtle sightingson roadways; one could be the above-normal rainfall this spring.
“It could be that time of year, too. They probably are laying eggs. I guess moving … going back to that same general area where they came from,” said Mr. Shockley.

His turtle rescues have not gone unnoticed. The work has a growing audience on Facebook, and others are joining the cause.

“Eddie doesn’t have Facebook, so I tell my family, ‘Eddie saved another turtle today,’” said Ms. Shockley. “Even my sister, she would have never touched a turtle before. But now, it’s, ‘Tell Eddie I saved a turtle.’”

“There are so many people now, just because I do that a little bit, it’s catching on. It’s crazy,” said Mr. Shockley.

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