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Belle Thrives

Thursday, September 7, 2006

There is a certain little boy in Manhattan who has probably lost all hope that I'll ever do a box turtle post again. Well, Kai sweetie, here's your box turtle post. Remember Belle, the turtle who was hit by a mower in July? The injury made a hole in her shell that exposed her lung, yucch, and things looked very bad indeed. With the help of an expert turtle rehabilitator from New York, I did a fill-and-patch job on Belle, using a heavy solid cream meant for burn victims and some synthetic plastic skin, some injectible antibiotic and a lot of TLC. I set up Chet's old puppy pen in the yard, giving her an 8' circle to rumble around in, complete with recessed swimming pool and a panoply of fresh fruits and live insects. Belle drank and trundled around, but she refused to eat for me. D'oh! I really wanted this turtle to eat before having to go into hibernation, but you can't make them eat if they don't want to.

What I could offer Belle was nothing to what Gary and Carol Foster can. They're the folks who own the mower that hit Belle, and no one could care more about this little denizen of the woods than they do. Right before we left for Chautauqua, Gary asked if they might be able to care for Belle over the winter. I readily assented, having just a wee bit too much on my plate right now to want another critter to worry about.This is the latest picture of Belle, from Carol. The Fosters have supplied her with a UV light, timed to go on for a 12-hour day, and she's become a lusty eater of canned chicken, dusted with reptile vitamins. Carol and Gary think she just missed being near her home (they found her in their backyard, which borders on a woodland). The plan is to keep her awake and eating all winter so her shell can heal. In this shot, the hole looks smaller to us. We think it's beginning to close over. Hooray!
We have no way of knowing how old Belle is, but she's an adult. Counting rings on scutes only works while they're young. After a certain point, the annual growth rings are so close together it's really hard to tell how many there are. And in really aged turtles, wear is a factor; I find a few old soldiers who are worn almost smooth. No way to age them, except to guess that they're probably old enough to be our grandparents. Imagine keeping a 97-year-old turtle in a box, as a pet.

In other box turtle news, I've got to walk out and check that nest cage again. I try to check it every few days, hoping each time to see silver-dollar-sized turtlets stomping around inside. It's gotten so overgrown that I must take a flashlight with me to see down into the grass and make sure there's no exit hole. Then, the question will be: Should I release them right then and there, or bring them inside for a safe hibernation and perhaps a few years of growing up, until they're too big and strong to be chipmunk snacks?
Anybody want to take bets on what I'll do? I know, no-brainer.

The shipping boxes for Letters from Eden arrived today, all 300 of 'em. 75 lbs. of boxes. I don't want to take chances with padded envelopes for this heavy hardcover book. The books were shipped today from Indianapolis. Oh my gosh. I absolutely can't wait to see them. I hope they don't arrive tomorrow though; I want a guilt-free weekend in the sun with my little family. We can get down to bidness when the books get here.


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