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Erin Kinnetz

Ranger Russell Retires!

Ranger Russell started working in the Parklands Education Department in 2011 as an educational ambassador. That makes him the longest working Interpretive Ranger in the Education Department at the Parklands! Before that Russell worked in an elementary school in New York state as a classroom pet. He has worked about 25 years teaching children and families of New York and Kentucky about the importance of box turtles and the Eastern Deciduous forests that they call home. A decent career for anyone. We thought it was time for Russell to enjoy some time off. In March of this year Russell retired from being a Ranger. He has gone home with one of the human rangers to be cared for and to live out the rest of his life. He has settled in nicely and is enjoying the same things he ever did: long, warm carrot baths, chopped chicken, fruits, worms, and hiding in leaves. He doesn’t spend as much time biting backpacks.  

While we don’t know exactly how old he is, we know that he is at least 39 turning 40 this year based on the number of rings on his shell. He might be 10-30 years older than that. Russell was once a wild box turtle in New York. He was hit by a car or lawn mower and rehabilitated. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to be released again and that’s how he started his career in education. Never take a box turtle out of the wild to become a pet. They are an endangered species and play a vital role in seed dispersal in our forests. They also don’t make for great pets because they can live for up to 100 years and outlive their owners. That means Russell may have a nice long retirement ahead of him. 

If you want a chance to say goodbye to Russell and wish him well in his retirement, he will be making an appearance at the Annual Junior Explorers Turtle Derby on May 18th, 2024 from 10am-2pm. Russell was the first winner of the Parklands Turtle Derby in 2020 although he hasn’t won since. He may come back to the PNC Achievement Center in Beckley Creek from time to time just to check on how things are going without him. 

Taking over the role of Educational Ambassador at the Parklands is Ranger May. She is also an Eastern Box Turtle. This is May’s first job in Education. Before coming to the Parklands she was a personal pet. May is already doing a great job and she shows us that every turtle has their own personality. May can be shy at times but she brings her own sassy flair to the job. She is an accomplished digger, she has a huge appetite, she likes to climb but isn’t as good at flipping herself back over (hey, we all have areas to improve!) and doesn’t care much for biting backpacks. We can’t wait to see how well she races in her first Turtle Derby this year! She has high hopes that she can bring the title back to the Parklands from Big Momma from the Louisville Nature Center.