Turtle Love

I keep seeing turtles.  Specifically, three toed box turtles.  They are a land based turtle that is a sub-species of the Eastern Box Turtle.

I’m seeing them so often now that I can differentiate between them.

DSCN2766I named this guy Mitch.  I was wrong, though.  As you shall see.  These markings on the shell are very different than other of the three toed box turtles.  I wonder why.

DSCN2844This is Mildred.  I’ve seen her most.  She hangs out in the paddock, where the garden is, and around in the bird room, where we have elderberry bushes.  Here, she’s on the pool deck, having just had a poop.  Because of Mildred, I can now identify turtle poop from other kinds.  When I see turtle poop now, I’ll say, “all right, which one of you did this?”

DSCN2884Mildred likes cantaloupe, too.  I saw her nestled into the side of one of the beds, and decided to conduct an experiment.  The cantaloupe had been mostly eaten by some other critter, so I put it on the ground to see if turtles would eat it.  Yup.  Using this same method, I’ve determined that she won’t eat green beans, carrots, or cucumbers.  Loves lettuce and cantaloupe and elderberries.  They don’t have teeth, but they do have strong jaws.

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DSCN2880I’m calling this one Margaret.  She’s smaller than Mildred, but just walked up this morning to have some berries.

DSCN2861This is Milton.  He hangs out near the little orchard on the east side of our house.  He is much shyer than Mildred, who seems to be the most outgoing three toed box turtle on the property.

Although, not all that shy.  I saw him approach her, and sort of spin her around.  She would try to walk away, and he wasn’t about to let that happen.

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I’ve been reading a bit about turtles, since stumbling over them so much.  They are omnivores.  They are very attuned to their environment and are constantly needing to adapt to temperature changes.  They need moisture.  So now I water various piles of leaves around the house, since I see them nestled under a pile of leaves so often. These turtles seem to have adopted certain areas around the house.  It’s been pretty dry.  This is the first time in three years here that I’m seeing 3 to 4 different turtles every day.  It’s cool.  But it worries me.

DSCN2817While eating breakfast the other day, we spotted this couple just outside the window.  Apparently, turtle breeding season goes on all summer long.  Since turtles are sparse, they kinda gotta grab the opportunity to mate whenever they come across one another.

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This is how I found out that Mitch was female.  So now, her name is Michelle.

I really don’t mean to be a turtle sex voyeur, but they are doing it right in front of me.  This guy had a style all his own, and he looked to be having such a great time, I took video.  This encounter took over an hour, and I didn’t see the dismount, but she dragged him around a little, and his head would go back and I could just see the thought bubble (Oh Baby!  Yeah!).  The males hook their clawed back feet into the females shell and ride them, literally.

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Mildred gets around.

Females can apparently decide when to fertilize the eggs.  So maybe she’s selecting the best of the bunch.  They lay eggs at night in sandy soil, according to the experts.  We’ve only seen one baby turtle in the three years we’ve been here.

According to what I’ve read, box turtles are most active right before or right after a rain.  I’ve seen them after a rain, for sure, but there are at least four different turtles wandering around our house at the moment and we haven’t had rain for days and aren’t forecasted to have any for days.  It’s strange.  I’ve looked in the various books I have and online, and people really don’t know shit.  Some sources say they don’t travel widely at all, others say they can travel 5 to 6 miles a day and that females, in particular, move around to look for the perfect place to lay her 3 to 8 eggs.  Some sources say they can live for over 100 years, others say 50 to 60 years.

Turtles are reptiles and have been on this earth for over 250 million years.  Sorry, creationists.  Box turtles are hinged, which means that they can close up their shells very tightly.  They aren’t born with that, though.  Their shells are soft and unhinged which makes them very vulnerable to predators.

These guys are under threat due to shrinking habitat.  And cars.  And idiots that use them for target practice (which is illegal, but idiots don’t care).

All of the turtles in Missouri are protected, with only two of the aquatic species considered game.  Those can be taken for food only under certain circumstances.

Supposedly, turtles mate and lay eggs in spring.  But all of these matings took place in September.  Maybe this is a last party before they dig themselves a space beneath the frost-line and go to sleep for a few months.

Most of September was hot and dry.  We’ve cooled off the past few days, with highs in the 70s.  I haven’t seen a turtle since.  I miss them.

 

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