This is a story close to my heart. I live at the Jersey Shore. Every June and July, female turtles creep from the bay and go in search of high ground to lay their eggs. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of them never make it. Their journey takes them across paved roadways, where many are squished. I’ve seen them.
Research by two young men show that a certain percentage of the turtle killings are intentional.
Nathan Weaver, a student at Clemson University placed a plastic turtle in the road near his campus. In the course of one hour, seven out of 267 vehicles, 2.62 percent, swerved in order to hit the turtle. Read:
Clemson student’s turtle project takes a dark twist, on CharlotteObserver.com.
A psychology professor quoted in the story explained the intentional killings as “the dark side of human nature.” He said,
“They aren’t thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time.”
I think the good professor is wrong. I think Weaver was observing sociopathic behavior. Experts estimate that 1 percent to 4 percent of the population are sociopaths. Well, the 2.62 percent of drivers who swerved in order to kill the turtles fit right into that range.
Mark Rober, a NASA engineer, conducted a similar experiment using a rubber turtle, snake and tarantula. He observed 1,000 cars, and 6 percent of of drivers intentionally ran over the animals.
Turtles were hit 1 percent of the time and snakes 1.8 percent—again tracking with the estimated number of sociopaths in society. Tarantulas, however, were hit the most, by far. If I were to interpret this, I’d guess that the tarantula-killers perceived them as dangerous.
Here’s a video of Mark Rober’s Roadkill Experiment.