Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Look what Alice found

It all started with a persistent, yet quiet, woofing in the back garden. Not your ordinary, alert me to the threat of someone emptying trash into the bin in the alley, kind of woofing. Just a series of little puffs of woof. Finally, I got myself out of the studio, looked for the 'threat' and found Alice in with her nose down in an intense examination of something on the ground. My first thought was dead pigeon. But then Alice has no problem bringing me a dead pigeon. No this was serious.

This little box turtle was Alice's trophy of the day. I was quite surprised to find a turtle here. Having grown up around lakes and streams, I've always thought of turtles as water creatures, specifically the snapping kind. Not so! This little girl is a box turtle, specifically an Ornate Box Turtle, a terrapene ornata, to be precise. And you might well wonder how I know it is a girl. Well, Alice's treasure sent me on a mad and all consuming hunt for any and all information pertaining to the terrapene ornata. For example, I know this is a girl because she has yellow eyes (the boys have red). Females may lay 200 eggs in a lifetime but only a handful make it to adults. There are almost always 4 toes on the hind feet and these are dry land turtles. These turtles are considered endangered in Wisconsin and are the state reptile of Kansas. I did not even know that states have state reptiles. Birds, sure, but reptiles?

I think you can probably see what happened to my afternoon. Alice spent the afternoon looking for the turtle. She is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Bob spent the afternoon napping on the deck. In fact, he was completely uninterested in the turtle. Far beneath the attention of an old dog with serious napping to do.

From the look of the mud on the little girl, it seems Alice probably rolled her around a bit before I got to her. Fortunately, she's a box turtle which means she's constructed with a hinge to slam the front door shut over her head. I did not know this before today.
She's been safely relocated on the other side of the fence where there are no dogs. Last time I looked she was long gone, so I'm pretty sure she suffered no lasting damage.
Now I'm off to fill out my box turtle sighting report. Yes, it is true. Texas Parks and Wildlife wants to know when and where you've seen a box turtle.


Silver Parrot said...

I have relatives in Albuquerque and they had families of these guys living in their back yard for years. Started out with one pair and then would end up with a couple of surviving babies each year. They spent the winter dug into the ground in the flower beds and then would come out in the spring. My aunt would put some small paint marks on their backs so she could identify the individuals over the years. Sadly, one year, an animal (I want to say it was a raccoon, but I don't remember) got into the yard and killed every single one of them.

sharon said...

How wonderful LeAnn! I've only seen
a turtle in a natural habitat once, and it was no where near home, so I would be thrilled!! I'm thrilled when I see a frog in the yard!! Thanks for sharing this, I think it's amazing...I'm always in awe of nature, and your stories!!

Katie said...

We are unofficial turtle rescuers around here...Actually, we had one come to us - in our old house, we heard a light knocking on the door and opened it to find a snapping turtle on our front porch trying to get in (it had to climb up a brick step, too)...So, we borrowed a wagon from our neighbors and wheeled it down to a creek not too far from the house. Our neighbors laughed at us walking our dogs and turtle down the street :o)

But, we've also stopped and rescued turtles out of the middle of the street - especially one that we swerved to avoid, only to watch the minivan behind us hit it...Luckily, it only took a glancing blow that flung it up on the shoulder...So, we stopped and checked to see if it was OK and took it to the same stream - far away from traffic...

We also had our own (unofficial) hermit crab rescue society when we were in Roatan last year...We got tired of seeing squished hermit crabs from rude (or drunk...or both) people stepping on them, so we would keep an eye out, see which general direction they were heading, and set them off to the side so they could continue off of the path. It was nice to know that we saved a few hermit crabs from being squished :o)

And, I'm glad Alice had her adventure for the day :o)

Marie Cramp said...

How cool is that!! I love it. My kids would have gone nuts over a cute little thing like that. TFS


SummersStudio said...

Kelly, one of the things I thought about was that this was an escaped pet. Like your aunt, people do keep them like that here. Or at least according to my 'research.' So sad that your aunt lost her turtles to a predator.

Sharon, once I got over the initial OMG I was quite thrilled to see this little girl.

Marie, my kids would have loved to keep this turtle when they were younger.

Katie, that is so cool that you are a rescuer, especially of non-traditional rescue animals. I've never had anyone here tell me about turtles in the city. And we are in the middle, not on the edges at all. My one regret is that I didn't move the little girl further out, maybe outside the city limits.

Katie said...

Part of the reason we are extra careful about turtles is that I LOVE them - sea turtles, box turtles, I don't care...I love them all...I would have a pet one if we didn't already have 4 cats and 2 dogs (and an aquarium full of fish who have nothing better to do than make baby fish...long story...). So, we do what we can...And we also worry about our dogs getting hurt (especially with snapping turtles) and vice versa :o)

We are barely on the outskirts of the city (since Houston keeps growing), so we still have critters around, but I always remember seeing all sorts of wildlife around here - even when I lived further in town...Texas is a special place like that :o)

Tammy and Rob said...

What a great little adventure you had LeAnn, how fun!! As a child I was always searching for creatures, especially in New Mexico, such a tomboy I know, haha!
Thanks for stopping by, been busy with both the day job and getting pieces ready for the Chili Harvest Festival.The day job has been kicking my butt lately, I just want to come home and veg on the computer, then Rob comes in from his workshop and gives me that look. Loved the lentil btw :)

Candace said...

Good old Alice! Molly Brown and one had a little chat recently through the fence at one another. It's on my blog post from earlier this month, I think, an Eastern box turtle.

I cannot imagine living in a place where I couldn't see my turtles and rabbits and deer. I've been there and done that and prefer what I do and see now, even the king (or rat) snakes... gorgeous fellas!
Take care!
Candace in Athens.

The Joy of Nesting said...

What a great adventure LeAnn!!!

Especially in the city :)The sad thing is as the city grows it encroaches on the natural habitats and the animals become the displaced ones. :( Our beaches are nesting grounds for giant sea turtles. All the residents know to call the governmental rescue agency when a mamma come up to lay her eggs. Once she goes back to the open sea the rescuers remove the eggs and care for them until they hatch. Once they hatch they are taken back to the place where their nest was and set free to make their way to the ocean. It's one of the most awesome sights!!! There are hundreds of tiny little guys all dashing for the dark waters in hope of making it out to deep waters before the sun comes up :)Every time I watch them I end up with my eyes leaking!! :)

We have to take them from their beach nests not so much because of the other wild predators that feed on the eggs but because of the blatent disreguard for life that many people seem to have. Though 4 wheelers are banded from the beaches they still go racing up and down over the tops of nest and often right over the top of a mother as she lays her eggs. It's soooo heart breaking to find a mother woth a broken shell or a nest full of eggs crushed! I tell you I just don't understand some people !!

So thank you LeAnn for rescueing your little box turtle maybe the little girl will name one of her babies LeAnn?? Well you never know it could happen! How do you suppose you say LeAnn in Turtlese?? Hmmmmm maybe Yertle will know,He is a turtle after all! :)

Pattie ;)
Mazatlan Mx.

SummersStudio said...

Tammy, as children we were always bringing home bugs, toads, and even once mice. I was tempted to hang on to the turtle for a few hours till Peter got home.

Candace, I would love to live in the country again. But you can leave out the snakes.

Pattie, the plight of the sea turtles is such a sad thing. It amazes me how careless and even deliberately thoughtless people can be with our fragile creatures. Sea turtles are just magnificent and I would love to see the march of the babies to sea.

Erin said...

Oh, she's beautiful! Look at those markings on her shell! I can see why they are call 'Ornate' Box Turtles!

mairedodd said...

one of those incredible unexpected surprises! i had no idea that there were turtles away from water... and about the different colors of eyes...
funny - the lentil beads kind of evoke your little turtle's shell...

SummersStudio said...

Erin, I really wanted to wash her off and get a good look at that pattern. But I figured she'd had enough for one day.

Maire, I'm still kind of in awe that these little things live here in this dry climate. I keep hoping I'll see another one someday.