published Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Whatever happened to ... Chattooga County man still recovering from turtle escape

Turtle farmer David Driver discusses his business in the shed he uses as a hatchery on July 18, 2012, in Summerville, Ga. Driver, who said he was one of three turtle farmers in the state, made worldwide news last year when thousands of his turtles made a slow-motion breakout.
Turtle farmer David Driver discusses his business in the shed he uses as a hatchery on July 18, 2012, in Summerville, Ga. Driver, who said he was one of three turtle farmers in the state, made worldwide news last year when thousands of his turtles made a slow-motion breakout.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

GOT TURTLES?

Northwest Georgia residents who have turtles they'd like trapped free of charge can call David Driver at 706-676-8271.

Q: Whatever happened to David Driver, who had 1,600 turtles run off last summer from his Chattooga County turtle-growing operation?

A: Media outlets around the world picked up the story that some 1,600 turtles made a slow-motion getaway in July from Driver's turtle ponds near Summerville, Ga.

Driver told the Chattooga County Sheriff's Office that someone -- either vandals or scrap-metal thieves -- had taken down fences made of metal barn siding at his ponds on Harrisburg Road.

With the ponds' perimeter breached, the turtles -- all native species such as common snappers, Eastern paints and yellow-bellied sliders -- broke free and made a beeline to nearby ponds and creeks.

They had time to escape because Driver was busy moving to his current home and turtle farm about five miles east of Summerville.

Driver said last week that he's still recovering from the loss of the 1,600 adult turtles he had trapped over four years. He wasn't able to catch the escapees.

"We'll build back up," he said. "To get back what I lost would take four years, five years."

"We've got a guard dog now, watching the place," he added.

Driver and his family collect turtle eggs from the dirt around the fenced turtle pond at their new location. Driver hatches the eggs in a climate-controlled shed and sells baby turtles to pet-growing operations in Florida and to turtle farms in China, where they're fattened up for the dinner table.

This update was written by staff writer Tim Omarzu. Contact him at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651. If you have an idea for Whatever happened to, email news@timesfreepress.com.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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