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On Turtles

Monday, May 15, 2006

With the recent rains, box turtles are on the move. They like to move when it's damp, so they don't overheat. That's why you see them on the roads first thing in the morning. I doubt that they're basking, as many people assume; they know full well that roads are dangerous places to be, and they're just trying to book across them as fast as they can. They freeze when they see a car, so we assume they're just hanging out on the warm asphalt. Nope. They're freaking out and wishing they could disappear. Bill "saves" many every year, stopping to carry them across the hazardous asphalt in the direction they're headed. I have bumper stickers on my car asking people to give turtles a "brake," and I stop for dozens each year.
This was the first turtle I found this spring, as I was headed to DC on April 18. He's like a little jewelbox in the morning sun.
I found two in a row on Stanleyville Road one morning. This one had been run over by a car some time ago, and healed again. Imagine taking a blow like that and then just getting on with your life. Crushed and broken, nobody to help put you back together--and your only choice is to keep walking. And yet most of the turtles I find have some kind of injury, whether it's a missing leg, a chewed carapace ('coons chew them right by the head, trying to get to the goodies. Imagine the horror of being chewed by a 'coon, relying on the strength of your plastron hinge to keep yourself closed up as it grinds away on you. I imagine you wait until it loses interest, hoping against hope you can hold out until it's tired of fooling with you.)
We have no idea what box turtles suffer, being slow and relatively immobile but delicious inside.
So whenever I have a chance to help a box turtle, I take it. If I find one with an ear infection, I take it in and administer injectible antibiotics until it's better. (Yes, I'm permitted by the State of Ohio to handle and help them). If I find one in town or in some other artificial habitat, I keep it for observation, make sure it's healthy, and let it go out here. On our Big Day May 13, Chetty found a lovely dark female in our meadow, and he let me know by repeatedly sniffing at it and looking up at me to see if I noticed. Bless him, he didn't try to pick it up. Chet knows so much, and understands so much.
He enjoys sniffing and looking at turtles and baby birds, but he knows not to touch.
We found another turtle, by chance a male, only a few dozen yards farther down the meadow. It seemed only right and natural to introduce them. Box turtles have no way of finding a mate--no call, no visual display, no pheromone--other than to simply run into one. So I helped. When I left them alone, the male's blazing red eye was just peeking out of his shell, and I thought I heard a soft, "Gol-ly!"


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