Turtle Tracks Update Fall 2011

16 Nov

It has been a great year for Jimmy Irwin and Catherine–the resident turtles at Earthshine Lodge.  They both had active summers with lots of good rains and great opportunities for moving about the mountain, feeding and meeting other turtles.  While I did not observe Jimmy with any other turtles this year, it was very different with Catherine.  I found her mating with two different males once near Earthshine and again over Richland Ridge where she spent most of the summer!  It seems that Catherine is a very popular turtle and hopefully the future of box turtles on the mountain is safe within her shell.  Take a look at the video below from one of the times I found Catherine with a male.

Jimmy and Catherine have both put on reserves of fat for the long winter’s torpor and now seem to have chosen their overwintering sites for this year.  Catherine is in the almost exact location–within inches–of where she spent the previous winter and Jimmy is within about two feet of his last years overwintering site.

Mrs. Bones, one of the turtles on our Cedar Mountain study site–seems to have also decided on her overwintering location for this year.  The site she has chosen is only ~30 feet east of the last two years’ overwintering sites.  The last time I located her–on the 15th of November–she was not visible on the surface and in an area of dense Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurels beside a huge rotting pine log.

Mr. Bones, who lives in the same forest as Mrs. Bones, has been missing due to a malfunctioning transmitter since the late summer of 2010.  I have tried to locate him several times using turtledogs and technology but to no avail–he remains MIA.

It is truly amazing to me that the box turtle has such a powerful instinct that allows it to consistently find the same tiny spot in such a huge forest.  Like the ancient sea turtle who can find the beach where it was born, the box turtle has the same instinct to return to the same feeding, overwintering and nesting locations year after year.

If you find a box turtle (or any other turtle) crossing a road simply pick it up and move it off the road in the direction it was facing.  You do not need to take it to a new forest–that is not its home–it will try to walk home to where you found it.    This is only one of the many reasons that you should never take a wild box turtle home.  There is sometimes cause to take a box turtle home with you: if it is injured or sick and will be returned to its origin after it has recovered or if you are 100% certain that it has lost its home due to development or other habitat loss.  In the later case, if you are not willing to care for it then you will need to find it a home in a nature center, zoo or wildlife park because it has no home to return to.


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