An update on Mrs. Bones, one of the Eastern box turtles in the Earthshine Nature Programs Turtle Tracks box turtle conservation, public awareness and education program happening at Earthshine Discovery Center, Cedar Mountain and The Academy at Trails Carolina in western North Carolina, USA.
Mrs Bones has been on another incredible Odyssey. She was picked up in mid summer by an unknown turtle-napper, toted several miles away for several days, was discovered by a concerned citizen who returned her to us where we then discovered her transmitter was dead. She then received a new transmitter, was released back into her habitat where she became sick with conjunctivitis, was pulled from her habitat and was treated and recovered from the illness, had an article published about her travels in the local paper, was again released back into her home range where she was preparing for her long winter sleep when an outside force of unknown description (most likely a canid or a mower) removed her transmitter leaving her whereabouts unknown (more about this in the video below). We searched but found no trace of Mrs. Bones so we feel that she is doing fine somewhere in the forest and fields of her native habitat roaming free like a turtle should be. We may find her again one day but as we know it is very heard to locate a wild turtle that does not want to be found.
Over the 4+ years that we followed Mrs. Bones we collected some very valuable data on the travels of a wild Eastern Box Turtle in a fragmented, human altered landscape.
What did we learn from following in the tracks of Mr. and Mrs. Bones?
In short we learned that box turtles know where they are, what they are doing and where they are going. They have an agenda, a mission–they are on “important turtle business” and they need to complete it. They do not need help from us in the form of being “rescued” from being “lost.” If they have not been picked up and moved away from their native habitat, then they are not lost–they know exactly where they are. Box turtles have an amazingly accurate sense of navigation and they can find remote areas of their habitat at the same time each year that a normal human could not do without a GPS and specialized training. They are incredible survivors and have been around since the time of the dinosaurs and survived unbelievable odds in order to still inhabit the earth today. However, they are having trouble surviving the human animal and his drive to alter the land to his way of thinking. They have trouble adapting to our way of life so we must adapt to theirs. What do I mean by this? First, they need our help when it comes to crossing roads–simply move them to the side that they are moving or pointing toward, take them a few yards off the road into the vegetation and say goodbye. Please do not take them home as pets–they need to stay wild and in many places it is illegal to do so. If you burn leaves and other yard debris in the fall–do so shortly after raking because box turtles like to shelter in leaf piles. If you wait days or weeks to burn, a turtle could be trapped inside and be injured or die. Do not use chemical fertilizers, weed killers and other toxins on your land. These chemicals are toxic to life and poison the food chain of which turtles are a part. These toxins build up in their bodies and weaken or kill them. These toxins also eventually end up in your food supply because everything is connected in the great web of life. Finally, if you must mow grass, please keep your grass short so that turtles and other wildlife do not move into the tall grass in search of food and shelter and then get injured or killed by the blades of your mower. Also, mow at the hottest time of the day as this is when turtles and other wildlife have either moved out of the heat or buried into the ground and may be safe from the mower.
In the future I plan to publish a scientific paper outlining the detailed findings of this study as well as a children’s book about the Eastern Box Turtle. The book will outline the life of the box turtle as well as the dangers and challenges it faces to survive and serve to teach children and adults about the life and the importance of these beautiful, ancient creatures.
View Mrs. Bones’ latest Odyssey via the video below:
View Mrs Bones’ first Odyssey via the video below:
For more information on Earthshine Nature Programs and the Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks wildlife conservation projects check out: http://www.earthshinenature.com
We are not paid nor do we collect a salary to operate ENP or to conduct our wildlife conservation activities. ENP is a 100% volunteer operated program designed to educate you about these greatly misunderstood and amazing animals and hopefully, to impart to you, their beauty, uniqueness and intrinsic value to a healthy Earth and healthy humans.
If you would like to help support our mission and programs please feel free to donate using this link: http://www.earthshinenature.com/donate. Receipts available upon request. You may also donate supplies such as animal foods, medical supplies, reptile vitamins and habitat supplies. If you are interested in donating any of these items please contact us for more information on our current needs.
THANK YOU Earthshine Discovery Center and all of you who have helped to make Earthshine Nature Programs happen! Without all of you, our wildlife conservation and education mission would not be possible.
Visit the Earthshine Discovery Center to learn how you and your family, school, scout, church, corporate or camp group, can visit us and have a wonderful, fun, and educational retreat!
Music by John Mason and the Steep Canyon Rangers used with written permission.
Video and editing by Steve O’Neil
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