The Eastern Box Turtle’s Spring Arrival

 

Eastern Box Turtles are waiting for the sun.

photo 1

soaking up rays!

Some times I wonder if I am the only one that sees them. They march silently from the woods along the road.. recently awakened from a long winter sleep by the warm spring rains… slow in coming this year, but the sun is calling, daylight has increased making the sun warm enough to raise body temperatures enough for the digging to start. Hatchlings, often after staying in their nest all winter are beginning to see sunshine for the first time in their life. The Eastern Box turtle begins a new year in its unique and ancient way of life.

Last spring, as I traveled along a busy road in Western Hanover County, Virginia, I straddled a newly hatched turtle scurrying as fast as he could across the road. By the time I got turned around and back to where the turtle was, the wet spot on the roadway was indistinguishable.There was a lot of traffic that day.. Did anyone else even see the little guy? Did the person who flattened him even know what they had done? Did they care?

 Watching the Roads…

One eyed Sam

One Eyed Sam survived a lawn mower accident.

Often I will see them on the back roads, drive 100 yards, while my inner dialogue tells me it wasn’t a turtle at all.. not being one to get it out of my head, ..I eventually turn back to see the leaf, pine cone or scrap of wood that I was sure was a turtle.. They will be out soon .. the temperature of the days and the rising humidity will bring them out, so be prepared.

I see less and less of them every year. as the community gets developed around me, and the traffic continues to rise, the ones that I had helped crossed the road every year have been lucky to survive. Very few of these survivors are seen now, hopefully they have found more interesting things elsewhere in their habitat of 2-10 football field size areas that are etched in our resident turtles brain. They know every water hole, every berry patch,where the best place to find worms is and where the best place to hibernate is. Like a bird flying south, the uncanny homing instincts in box turtles often puts them in great peril when they are taken away from their territory or their territory is destroyed, and they try to find it. The Eastern Box turtle needs our help now. Land in central Virginia is at a premium, and due to the extensive sprawl and ease of travel, most of the land from DC to Raleigh, NC  is easily accessible  and prime for development. This rare and unique land, which follows the fall line of the Eastern United States, offers a lot to its residents, both four legged and two, and

IMG_5838

What will you do to help?

should be carefully evaluated and preserved for future generations. Humans it seems, have forgotten that these ancient reptiles are dinosaurs and their ancestors lived here 250 million years ago, and  If there is one thing that turtles know how to do, it is being a turtle and surviving. But, if we continue to destroy habitat at the alarming rate that we currently  do, these small relatives of the dinosaurs, will disappear totally from our planet.

The extinction of the Dinosaurs

 

Reptiles and Amphibians are amazing indicators of our planets health, and they are currently suffering from diseases that are thought to be caused by pollutants in their environments. Recent findings are showing that viable populations are being wiped out in the wild from viruses that are not fully understood or treatable.

Recently, I read a post from a friend that listed all the stress factors in her life. The list began with her work, followed by family, pets, and lastly her turtles, whom she commented, actually were responsible for reducing her stress, and the time she spent with them was the happiest and most peaceful of her day. I know we can’t all be turtle caretakers, but I do believe that we all should take time to appreciate the world around us, get out into the woods, notice the harmony of the trees, the rivers, the wind and the earth, and do what we can to protect and preserve this amazing planet for our grandchildren before it is too late, and PLEASE, try to notice the turtles walking along the road, trying to cross, and maybe stop and give them a hand… for these little dinosaurs have seen and survived a lot, I am sure if we take the time, there is so much to be learned from them.

Box Turtles are coming out of Hibernation

Virginia is known for its crazy unpredictable weather

Especially in the spring and fall.. seasons tend to blend together. This fall, winter, spring season certainly has been no exception. It amazes me that any of our native turtles survive these crazy changing temperatures, but hey, they have been around for more than 250 million years, so I guess our weather patterns are mild compared to some that they have endured over the centuries. Interestingly enough, the weather here in Central Virginia, is not the turtles biggest concern.

photo 3Survival of the fittest

Turtles do what they have to do just to survive. A couple of extremely warm days and The Eastern Box turtles begin to poke up out of the dirt. There is no mass exodus from the ground, rather it is about the sun and the heat. Slowly they work their way to the surface after being buried in up to a foot of soil, eyes still shut, seeking out the warmth of the sun and hoping for a warm spring rain to rinse of the caked on mud and to re-hydrate. The middle of March is extremely early for this awakening, and turtle watchers, although excited about the reappearance of their shelled friends, worry about the inconsistent changing of the weather and the turtles ability to dig back into the earth when the weather turns cold again.photo 2The Eastern Box turtle has many threats to its survival in this day and age, one would hope that they have a good grasp on dealing with the weather in a place where they have live for generations, but if an individual turtle goes into hibernation without being in optimum health, being caught in a cold snap can mean the ultimate demise for that turtle.

So many box turtles are relocated by good doers who find them crossing the road in places where there is no longer habitat enough for them to survive. Choices are slim, and often dictate that the best option for these turtles is to relocate them to a nearby park. Box Turtles have an uncanny instinct to return to their native hatching place as they know that territory… if this has been destroyed then survival is dependent solely on luck to find food and water. A Box Turtle can go a long time without food and many of these transient turtles can survive their first lost summer, but when winter approaches if they have not stored up the necessary reserves for hibernation, it may be their last.

photo 1
Soon, Turtles will begin marching about, looking for other turtles, food and water. Remember to look out for these amazing reptiles crossing the roads, especially after a warm spring rain, in the early morning hours, and help them across if you can. With all the threats that turtles now have to their very existence, it is so very important that we leave them in the wild whenever possible. Viable populations of turtles are becoming more and more rare in their native habitat so it is up to us to try to save, create and preserve habitat where ever we can.

Have Questions on a found Box Turtle? Leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.. Thanks for helping these amazing gems of the forest!

Shelley.[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”” ]

LOST and FOUND

 

photo 1Dear People of Virginia,

I found one of your residents yesterday. He was narrowly missed by oncoming traffic. You see, he is lost. His eyes are swollen shut, and he seems to have a cold.

I did my best to provide a good summer, lots of rain helped provide moisture for invertebrates and sunshine helped the native plants provide fruit and berries. I really try to provide all my residents the necessary habitat that will sustain them with the food, water and companionship for a long happy life.

I see you cut down his forest. I understand that my natural resources are important to you and of course they are renewable, thank you for letting me re-seed the land. But you took away important resources for many of my residents, and this one, well he was born right by that big oak where you left a stump, near the blackberry patch that you tore out because it was in your way, and he knew every inch of the 10 acres that he called home. He knew where every waterhole was, and he knew when and where to find the mulberries and blackberries, and he knew the best place to find worms and slugs. Now, his habitat is unrecognizable to him and he is lost.  

This native resident is very special to me. He can only be found in the eastern part of the United States, and his descendants go back to more than 200 million years! This guys family has survived mass extinctions, and his body type has changed little over the years due to his successful survival rate.  You see, he is able to hibernate and he can survive for a long time without nourishment, his body essentially shuts down. All of his organs change pace so that they are providing the most minimal output possible while still maintaining life. His heart rate, normally 40 beats a minute, slows to 1 beat for 10 minutes. He is a survivor, but now he has met his match.

Homo Sapiens  now rule the east coast corridor of the United States, and as the population grows so goes the forest. You can see by the map below how little land is preserved by State and Federal programs in Virginia.  And the lands that are protected are mostly difficult to negotiate and best left to the wilds. I appreciate that; as there are incredible habitats in these areas for your native creatures. However, you are missing the boat!New Picture

I am dismayed over the plight of the Elephants in Africa, the Whales deep in the ocean, and every little frog in the rainforest, and I am grateful that there are Homo sapiens that are studying, monitoring, and protecting these creatures the best they can.   You must all know that I stopped making land a long time ago, and once it is destroyed, the habitats and the animals will not readily return, for they depend on the forest and the plants for their survival. Your little resident does not have the option to gallop away to another patch of woods. No… his journey would be a long arduous one, and if he did manage to cross the highway the likelihood of him being able to find food and water is slim.

Virginia,  It is not too late! You need to preserve the land, the trees and the streams that support these amazing animals. Private land ownership is not the answer. Your small people parks are not the answer. Virginia, if you don’t preserve some land soon, you will have wiped out much of the genetic diversity and history that these little residents carry in their DNA.

Before all the animals disappear from the center of your lovely state, where the people live, You need to create a natural area for the wildlife.  An area where your people and their grand children, can come and see the diverse flora and fauna that this state has to offer.  You see, our little disappearing Gem of the Forest is The Eastern Box Turtle.

Habitat lose and destruction is only part of this little survivors  struggle to endure.  The Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most beautiful turtles  in the world and highly sought after for pets.  Poachers  ship turtles for medicinal purposes and consumption all over the world, and your little box turtle is not immune from this illegal and unethical practice. There is so much that Homo Sapiens can learn from this little Turtle. Scientists have barely touched on the amazing abilities of survival that these guys posses.   

Your little Resident will be okay. I have given the Box Turtles in your state an advocate, and I have sent him there. When spring arrives in your lovely state he will be released in the sanctuary with others of his kind, where he can live as a turtle for many more years and teach your children about the amazing world in which he lives and what they can do to help his nation survive.

Thanks for listening

Mother EARTh

Without ART there is no earth

https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com