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Monday, April 28, 2014

A Guest Turtle on a Stormy Day

Yesterday was a day of strange weather and odd portents, and briefly we entertained a guest turtle.

It started off cloudy and windy and cool, with Bow enjoying the great outdoors. Then at one point I noticed that out in the yard, among Brownie's extensive collection of treasured rocks, there was what looked like a turtle shell. So I told Bow I needed to investigate and went into the back yard.

The dogs did not seem too concerned about the turtle shell, which was clamped shut and seemed lifeless, although I could see that someone was still in there by looking through the cracks. I showed Bow the turtle shell, then went to put it out on the front porch, where it would be safe from the dogs.

The turtle still showed no sign of moving, so I left it there and came back later to check. When I returned, it was nowhere to be seen, neither in the spot where I had put it, nor in the immediate vicinity moving away from the house. I spotted a rabbit in the pasture, but no turtle. How fast can a turtle run? I wondered.  Thinking that the turtle was gone for good, I stopped to admire some wild flowers in my front yard.

It was only after I turned around to go back in the house that I spotted the turtle. It was very close to my front door.

The shell was open, and I could see its head looking out through the crack. It was shy but curious.

I went back in and took care of some things for Bow. By now Bow was in the inner pen. Then I brought out some vegetables for the turtle.I left the vegetables by the doorstep and went back inside.

 My friend Pam, who is an expert on both turtles and Jean Laffite,  identified it as a three-toed box turtle.  She suggested I give it fresh corn and berries. I didn't have that, so I opted for cauliflower and cherry tomatoes. But the turtle did not go toward the vegetables. When I returned a little later, he  had already  moved again to put more distance between himself and the food.

I never saw the turtle move. But I did see him in a different location every time I came back. Once he was on top of a sack of  potting mix.

The next time he was in my rock garden next to the porch.

By then, the weather was getting pretty stormy, and it was right after lunch. I cleared away the dishes and told Bow I was going out. Normally, I take my walk right after lunch. But this time I thought I would sit very still with my camera on the front porch and see if I could get some footage of the turtle walking away.

It started to rain, and the turtle was in an uncomfortable place, where all the run-off from the roof goes. Surely he will move now! I thought. But no. He stayed put and for five minutes I watched him do nothing while he was practically buried in water. Finally, I could stand it no more. I fished him out with a sigh and put him on the dry porch cement. Then I went back in to the pen.

When I checked again, the turtle had gone and no search could reveal his whereabouts. I hope he made it safely to the destination of his choice.

When I was little I wanted to adopt every animal I met. But now I am happy to host lots of independent animals on my land, most of whom I will never meet, who are all perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.

Bow was unusually calm during this particular storm. He was happy to have me back in the pen, and he even groomed me calmly during a thunderstorm. We were lucky with the weather we got, because people in adjoining areas had it much worse.


  1. With all the bluster from that storm yesterday, I'm surprised Bow was that calm. I was laughing at the turtle sitting in the downpour from your roof. What in the world was he thinking..."I need a cool bath"? Wow, I was surprised he wasn't trying to get out of that. I don't know a thing about turtles, but I don't think box turtles are water-dwelling turtles are they?
    I have observed them crossing my property though and they can really move quickly! I know what you mean about hosting and appreciating the "independent" animals. I do enjoy hosting purple martins who are totally dependent on man-made housing, but wish that they had not been forced to evolve this way.

    1. I felt bad about the turtle in the rain not moving for fear of me. I have read that they like to soak, but Pam says that closing up like that and not moving is a sign of fear. He should have been above the surface of the water hunting for worms.

      As for Bow not minding the thunder and being calm, I think he was just glad to have me back in the pen and not out there watching the turtle.

  2. I actually think animals like turtles are better off in nature than in a glass aquarium. I remember in elementary school our teacher had a pet turtle and rabbit for the class, and most of the year I did not have to clean up after them, but one day during our weekly movie the instructional aide said I had to start helping to clean up the turtle poop and rabbit poop. I told her I did not see why because I did not interact with these animals, but she said they were class pets. The turtle never did seem particular happy in its class aquarium, and he escaped once he got a chance when school was out. It was a different time though because teachers would never be allowed to have weekly movies and pets like back in the 80's. I still think the turtle was happier once it left on its own.

    1. Hi, Julia. I tend to agree, especially in the case of class pets who really have no human to become attached to, Some domesticated turtles are happy, but that is when they are cared for by a very special person, like my friend Pam.

      In my case, I am happy that the turtles on my land can take care of themselves and can live free.