Archive for the ‘Turtles’ Category



Photo by Matt Hammond.

I didn’t get a photo of this turtle while snorkeling, but a member of my party got it. I actually drifted right over it!

We saw an even larger green turtle later on, which was the biggest one I’d ever seen.


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Eastern box turtles need to be in the water a bit.



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This poor box turtle didn’t survive the haymaking:


Box turtles are sometimes killed by the tractors and other heavy equipment. My guess is the local turkey vulture clan cleaned out the shell.

I wish I had poked around with a bit more, because I could have clearly shown how turtle shells are actually just modified ribs.

But don’t worry too much. I cam across this specimen, who quite obviously survived it all.


Box turtles could be quite threatened in the very near future.

They can no longer be exported for the pet trade, and in the neighboring state of Ohio, they are listed as a “species of concern.”

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Frozen turtle

What happens when a certain dog leaves a stuffed toy out in the snow:


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Although the extreme heat has largely subsided, we still have relatively  high heat and humidity.

And when the weather gets like this, the box turtles look for little mud puddles to soak themselves in.

When I came across this particular turtle, his head was sticking above the water, but as I approached, he pulled it below the surface.

Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina) are actually decreasing in numbers in many parts of their range.  Many states now regulate owning and collecting them.

I don’t happen to live in one of them.

In this area, the box turtles are doing fine. I’ve seen many nests this year, and every year, I find juveniles and hatchlings.

So they are doing okay here.

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The males have these long claws on their front legs. If kept away from a female, he may be seen swimming around his tank while doing this bizarre ritual:


For those people who claim this is a dominance ritual– turtles don’t have dominance hierarchies. You have to have a brain larger than a pin’s head to have a dominance hierarchy. They do have territorial behavior, and sometimes  they do use mating behavior as territorial behavior. I think it’s because people watch things like the Dog Whisperer that they think that all animal behavior can be reduced to dominance and submission. Well, that’s not true in dogs, and it’s certainly not true in more primitive animals.

When he gets a female in his tank, he does rakes his claws around her head. Apparently, female pond sliders like their men with cuticles like Edward Scissorhands.

Pond sliders aren’t native to my part of the country, but you can find them here. The red-eared subspecies is so common in the pet trade, and most people don’t know how to care for an aquatic turtle. When these things outgrow their tanks or their food bill becomes too high, their owners release them into the wild. Like this fellow. (NEVER EVER RELEASE PET ANIMALS INTO THE WILD. NEVER.)

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