Saturday, July 18, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Posted by Bill of the Birds at 12:01 PM
June and July are the busiest months of the year for box turtles. Here in SE Ohio any morning following an evening rain I know I'm going to see at least one box turtle crossing the road as I drive into town to work. If it's possible to stop I do, picking up the turtle gently and transporting it across the road in the direction it was heading.
I always try to determine the sex of the turtle. Males have a concave plastron on the bottom of their shells—for a better fit when they are fertilizing the eggs inside a female. I also check each turtle for signs that they've been hit and hurt by a passing vehicle. If they're hurt, I take them home to Dr. Zick Medicine Woman. She uses her healing powers, her knowledge of animal rehabilitation, and her network of contacts in the world of box turtle lovers. When the turtles are fully recovered, we release them where we found them.
On a recent morning I found a medium-sized female crossing the road in front of Bird Watcher's Digest. Where she was headed or coming from, I'm not sure. There's no sizeable box turtle habitat nearby—only small patches of woods scattered around a small-own neighborhood. I guessed she might have been an escapee from a well-meaning human turtle-napper. People see a turtle crossing the road and they think it's lost, so they take it home to their backyard, or garden, or aquarium tank, and keep it. It's far better to help them cross the road and let them be. I picked up this gal and took her into the office.
She was in fine health, showing some signs that a chipmunk, squirrel, or raccoon had tried to chew their way into her shell. Her left front foot was missing some toes and nails, probably from the same mammal attack.
After a phone consultation with Dr. Zick, we agreed that we'd let her go on our farm where she'd at least have a chance at finding other box turtles. That would be highly unlikely in the yards and streets of the part of Marietta where I'd found her.
It is said that box turtles may roam the same bit of habitat their entire lives. When removed from their home range, they will roam around trying to re-find it. What a sad thing. For this female, found crossing a busy city road, we really had no choice but to relocate her to a safer place. So she came home with me to Indigo Hill—80 acres of prime box turtle habitat: old deciduous woods and no busy roads.
We fed her up on earthworms, blueberries, and banana and released her along the dirt path that skirts our meadow. She immediately walked over and submerged herself in a puddle, taking a long soak. Now she'd know where a source of water was. As we walked back to the house, we talked about what she must be thinking. And we wondered if we'd ever see her again. If we do, we'll know her by her left front foot.
Box turtles face a lot of dangers during their long lives. For every turtle I "save" by helping across the road, I see at least ten that are already smashed. I hope there's never a time when we are forced to talk about box turtles in the past tense. So I keep on helping them whenever I can.
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