Baby Eastern Box Turtle; The Smallest Dinosaur

The Smallest Dinosaur

A 2 year old baby eastern box turtle.

Finding a baby turtle is indeed a rare and exciting event.

Hatching out of an egg that was buried 6 inches below, months before and digging its way to the surface, only to  to spend the first few years of life hiding below leaf litter and mulch, eating worms and bugs that happen by, and counting on moisture from rain, does indeed sound like a struggle from another, perhaps prehistoric time.

In fact, Turtles are nothing more then dinosaurs. Their fossil history indicates that they did once roam the earth along side dinosaurs more then 200 million years ago.

How is it then that turtles survived catastrophes that wiped out most of the inhabitants of our earth?

Super Powers

Turtles, it seems, have an abundance of super powers. Whether they live in a body of water, in an arid desert, or in our wooded hillsides, Turtles have developed some amazing abilities to overcome  adversity and adapt to their micro-habitat.

Mother box turtles can lay 2 or even 3 nests of 2-6 eggs a summer, often digging a “false nest or two” to throw off egg thieves. An Adult Eastern Box Turtle is relatively safe from most natural predators in its native habitat. Its defense mechanism, of tightly closing up its shell, to form a tight “box”, not only gave the Box Turtle its name, but has served it well for millions of years.

Baby Eastern Box Turtles do not hatch with the natural defense of an adult, and rely on their ability to stay hidden and to blend into their environment  and, although it is believed that only one in a thousand  baby turtles ever reach reproductive age, they are well equipped to survive with a minimum of  sustenance for their first year of life in the wild.  Often, if a clutch is laid late in the summer, and the above ground temperature  is changing toward the cooler days of autumn,   Baby box turtles will stay in their nest through out their first winter, and make an early appearance with the spring rains.

The Mother turtle prepares a nest by digging a hole with her back legs as deep as she can, clearing out a cavity in firm earth, located above flood level, this allows the nest temperatures to remain stable and the cavity gives the babies room to dig out.  The Mother turtle will carefully bury her eggs and with unbelievable skill, will place a final layer of leaves or mulch on top, which will make the nest almost indiscernible to the average eye, once completed, the mother turtle abandons the nest. The eggs, and hatchlings are left on  their own.

The temperature of the nest, will determine the length of incubation, usually 60-70 days, and will determine the sex of the hatchlings. With a process called Temperature- Dependent sex determination, gender is determined.  With an ideal temperature of between 72°F – 93°F, embryos in the lower temperatures will be males and in the higher temperatures will be females. Those in the middle could be males or females.  Like a bird, baby turtles are equipped with an egg tooth, a hard sharp protuberance at the tip of their beak, that they use to break through their egg shell. Hatching can take a few hours or a few days.  Often, after hatching, the remnants of their yolk sac is still visible, and can support them for several weeks.

These tiny dinosaurs are at the most vulnerable  stage of their life.  Hatched in  an earthy brown color, to help keep them hidden, they will spend the majority of their time hiding and waiting for bugs and worms to cross their path. At hatching, their little shells are pliable and their hinge will not be fully functional until  they are  4-5 years old.  If lucky, they will continue to grow for about 15-20 years, and develop  patterns and colors on their shells that are uniquely theirs.

 How Can You Help Baby Box Turtles?

The loss of natural and native habitat is causing turtles to appear in some unlikely places. Mother turtles of all kinds may walk far from their home to find the perfect site to dig their nest, often crossing roads and lawns on their journey.  Many times, due to man-made altercations to the landscape, baby turtles appear  where one least expects them, and unfortunately, there is not always a suitable habitat nearby that could sustain a viable population.

Box Turtles are known to inhabit a “Home Territory”, this is usually built around their hatching place, and as the turtle grows and explores his habitat, favorite places for food, water, and hides are stored in memory. Like a compass, the turtle can find the exact location of this home, and if he is removed from it, or if it is destroyed, he may wander endlessly looking for it, surviving solely on luck.

It is believed that this homing ability  develops over the life of the turtle, the older the turtle, the more likely he is to search for home. Where as baby box turtles are able to be relocated and released in suitable habitat.

Baby turtles are truly amazing. They are great to share with your kids and to take some photos with, but it is important that we let these turtles remain in the wild, or they will soon be extinct in native habitat that they called home for millions of years.   As reptiles, Turtles are connected to our earth in a way that as mammals, we can only imagine. Their connection is weather related and the cycles of our Earth, our Sun and our  Moon have created a pattern over the eons that turtles have become programmed with. To keep a turtle in captivity means we must duplicate a natural environment to the best of our ability, and to keep a baby turtle as a pet is indeed an daunting task, as he may well live more than 100 years.

Baby Box Turtles needs are simple, but specific. Although Omnivores as adults, Baby box turtles need protein and calcium for their shells to grow strong, and start out their life journey as strict carnivores. Living among the leaf litter on the forest floor, they wait for food to come their way, eating pill bugs, worms and beetles.

If you have found a baby box turtle and are looking for the best option for release Please consider the following:

  • As an adult your baby will need 2-10 acres of undisturbed habitat
  • with native plants and natural clean water.
  • A natural forest floor with leaves and rotting logs.
  • it is always best to place a moved turtle near a water source and a natural hide (downed tree etc)
  • If in doubt, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator , or a wildlife veterinarian that can give you names of qualified people that can help.

 

Turtles are Unique and Amazing!

We are fortunate to be living among them, in their world.

Sadly, if we do not become more considerate of our actions when we destroy habitat and pollute our earth, it is likely that they will disappear in the wild within a generation or two.

The Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most unique and beautiful turtles in the world. Each one different, with patterns and colors, and as unique as you and me. Thank you for learning more about our shelled friends and please help us protect them for future generations!  Educate, Donate and Volunteer.

Please share!

I would love to hear your feedback.

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Newsletter

 

Inviting turtles to Lunch
Blueberries: Plant an Extra Bush!

As Omnivores, Box Turtles need more than just some worms and slugs, and have
survived for millions of years eating whatever they came across. As
climates settled and became consistent, plants evolved in different
habitats creating reliable food sources which helped our Eastern Box
turtle become the recognizable turtle that we know today.
One plant that evolved with our Eastern Box Turtles in the wooded
under-story, and was once as wild and native as the turtles themselves
is the Blueberry.

There are a few native varieties of Blueberries that can still be found in
scattered patches of old growth woods, around central Virginia, but the
good news is that all varieties of cultivated Blueberries have been
created from these wild bushes and do well in our slightly acidic soil.
Blueberries are considered to be a super food. They provide Fiber, and
are a good source of vitamin K1, vitamin C and manganese, along with
vitamins E, B6 and copper. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and
may help lower blood pressure , and delay age related brain decline.
Blueberries also may lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity,
and, adverse effects or allergies are very rare.

With all this going for them it is a wonder that we all don’t have
Blueberries growing in our backyards.Perhaps the long term
relationship with blueberries that our native box turtles have, has helped them develop the long lives and the extreme ability to eat just about anything.

Anyway you look at it, Blueberries are good for us and they are good
for wildlife. Box Turtles are not the only critters that enjoy this sunny
summer fruit. Blueberries are a favorite among song birds, small
rodents, foxes, and deer to name a few.
And Blueberries are easy to grow. Blueberry Growers in the northeast
say “if you can grow pines and cedars, You can grow blueberries”

Evidently, the acidic soil that is enjoyed by these native trees is also
enjoyed by blueberries.Coffee grounds can be occasionally placed
around the base of Blueberry plants and acts as an inexpensive
fertilizer, giving the plants a boost.
If you are into companion planting, Strawberries grow well at the base
of Blueberry bushes, benefiting from the scattered shade of the bush
while protecting its roots and holding in moisture, and, strawberries
are also loved by our native box turtles.
Technically, Blueberry bushes are self pollinating and produce both
male and female flowers, but it is recommended to plant more than
one variety for larger fruit, and don’t forget to add an extra bush or two
for the turtles and the wildlife.
Where can you get Blueberry bushes for your yard and garden?
You can find Blueberry bushes at most plant nurseries, but you can
also come by and visit the Box Turtle Sanctuary at The Ashland
Strawberry Festival on June the 16th on the campus of Randolph
Macon College in Ashland VA.We are looking forward to having an
educational booth with turtles, art and Blueberries! Please come by
and Visit and get a Blueberry bush or two for your wildlife!

 

 

Come visit the Box Turtle Sanctuary at theThe Ashland Strawberry Faire
on June 16, 2018.
We will have an educational display with live turtles, with a special guest..!
Look for us at RMC Welcome Center
We will also have eARTh Art activities for children of all ages,
and don’t forget to stop by to pick up some blueberry bushes

 

Help Support The Box Turtle Sanctuary every time you shop at Kroger!

Did you know you can support The Box Turtle Sanctuary just by shopping at Kroger?

It’s easy when you enroll in Kroger Community Rewards®! Just sign up with your Plus Card,

and select the Box Turtle Sanctuary of Virginia. Once you’re enrolled, you’ll earn rewards every time you shop

and use your Plus Card, and earn fuel points for yourself.
Enroll now for the Kroger Community Rewards Program. And remember…

all participants must re-enroll each year to continue earning rewards for their chosen organization.

kindergartners learn about the Eastern Box Turtle

Educational Programs  are still available for 2018 –

Book Yours Today!
Turtle Parties are great Educational Ohh and Ahhh Moment for Kids of All Ages!
As an Advocate for Turtles, Educational programs are created around their schedule..

Programs are limited!Book Yours Today!

NEW for 2018

Turtles from around the World!
Learn about turtles and their Habitats!

How their shell can help you tell where they live and what they eat!

All Boxed In
Explore a year in the life of An Eastern Box Turtle.
Discover how they survived the days of the dinosaurs and became one of Virginia oldest residents.

Learn how you can help box turtles in your own back yard, or neighborhood, and keep them coming back.

 

 

We are growing and need your help!

With the recent help from University of Richmond  School of Law,

We are ready to expand our board and are looking for community involvement.

If you or someone you know has a love for turtles, our natural world and sharing this knowledge and are interested in making a difference in your
neighborhood, We would love to talk!
Please drop me an e-mail at art4turtles@gmail.com

 

Box Turtle Sanctuary of Central Virginia
PO Box 1292
Ashland, VA 23005
art4turtles@gmail.com
804-347-0870
https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com

Newsletter; late winter 2018

Why Box Turtles are good for your Garden, and How you can get them to be a regular visitor: 

February Preparations


Many Years ago, before the advent of common pesticides, Box Turtles were kept in gardens as a form of pest control. Our native Eastern Box Turtles are omnivorous and have evolved eating organic matter that many other animals could never eat. The Eastern Box Turtle is sometimes even considered the only poisonous turtle in the world due to its ability to eat and process toxic mushrooms that are lethal to most. So if your garden has a good supply of decomposing plants that feed bugs, insects and slugs, you have a turtle buffet!

Blackberryface

 
How to Create a Turtle Hide-a-way with your yard Debris

Mother Winter often leaves our yards littered with offerings from the trees. So far this winter at the sanctuary, we have lost a few small trees and shrubs due to Ice and snow damage, and although it is messy and time consuming to clean up and replant, winter damage is a natural and beneficial process for both the plants and the critters that use them for shelter and food. Cold Weather damage to plants have two basic causes:

  • native plants have gotten weak from insects, disease or to much fast growth.
  • non-native plants are not prepared for our winter.

Although February weather is not conducive to replacing damaged winter plants, it is a good time to clean up the debris, and begin planning native alternatives for wildlife in your yard.

Here’s What you can do Now

 

  • Locate an area along the border, in the tree line, or in a corner of your yard where you can build and leave a pile of your yard debris.
  • Create a pile of sticks and branches and intersperse with leaves, soil, and compost,
  • DO NOT USE soil with additives like fertilizers and weed controllers, and do not place any non-native invasive plants that may root or seed into your pile.

 

Here’s What you can expect
  • Moisture in the leaves will attract insects which will begin decomposition, creating warmth.
  • Sticks and branches will begin to rot as they are consumed by moisture and insects, your pile will begin to shrink.
  • Insect eating birds, reptiles and amphibians will begin to visit your pile, eating insects, and further encouraging decomposition..
  • The shelter and protection from predators and the elements that is created by your pile of debris will keep your new wildlife visitors returning, and create a new hot-spot of wildlife diversity for you to enjoy.

Educational Opportunities for 2018

As an Advocate for Turtles, Educational programs are created around their schedule..

Programs are limited!   Book Yours Today!


Turtle Parties are a
Great Educational
Ohh and Ahhh Moment for Kids of All Ages!Turtleteach c
 
*NEW for 2018
Turtles from around the World!
Meet Sully!
Learn about turtles and their Habitats!
How their shell can help you tell where they live and what they eat!
 

Meet Sully

All Boxed In
Explore a year in the life of An Eastern Box Turtle. Discover how they survived the days of the dinosaurs and became one of Virginia oldest residents. And Learn how you can encourage these ancient reptiles to visit your yard and keep them coming back.

Hibernation or Brumation?
What’s the Difference?

Although many people, including turtle keepers, refer to the winter dormancy period of all animals as hibernation, the truth is they are two quite different metabolic processes

Hibernation is a state of winter dormancy in which animals (usually mammals) do not eat or drink and are able to lower their metabolism to expend a minimal amount of energy.

Brumation is a term that refers to cool-blooded or ectothermic reptiles, and is physiologically different in that when the external temperatures drop, so does the turtles body temperature. This drop in body temperature limits the turtles functionality and causes him to seek shelter until warmed by the sun.

University of Richmond School of Law

Thanks to our Student Attorney from the

University of Richmond School of Law Intellectual Property & Transactional Law Clinic,
We now have official volunteer and release forms and are busy scheduling our first Volunteer day

for Saturday May 26, 2018!
MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW! AND WATCH FOR MORE INFORMATION!

 

Do you have Questions, suggestions or comments? Do you know someone that loves turtles? Are you interested in learning how you can help? Please share or drop me an e-mail!

 

All Boxed In: RichmondMag.com

Boxed In

The besieged Eastern box turtle finds a passionate defender in Shelley Whittington

Turtle 6n2a0031 copyturtle200dpi

 

by 
richmondmag.com

It happened for the hundredth time on Farrington Road.

Shelley Whittington saw a box turtle doggedly trudging across the asphalt, and she pulled over to help it. As a red Mustang sped toward her, she waved her arms. The car slowed — after smashing the little creature to pieces.

“The turtle!” she cried.

The Mustang driver looked at her. “What turtle?” he said.

Whittington wept all the way home.

That’s the tragedy, she says. We don’t see what we destroy.

Whittington has watched Hanover County grow and grow over the last 35 years: roads widened, trees felled, houses rising. And she has watched the turtles vanish.

“It pains me. When I see trees being destroyed, I feel the pain — it’s the most bizarre thing, but I feel it,” she says. When land is cleared, people don’t think about what happens to the humble animals on the forest floor: “The deer hop away, the bunnies hop away, and the turtles [say] ‘I’m gonna wait!’ ”

The Eastern box turtle, an ancient terrestrial species, has a near-unbreakable connection to its home range, even after a subdivision swallows the woods. Once removed, a turtle may spend the rest of its life searching for that place again — but if left there, it may starve in the sterile environment of fenced lawns, or be unable to find a mate.

One Thanksgiving weekend several years ago, Whittington found a turtle at the entrance of a newly built neighborhood in Hanover. It should have been hibernating, but was underweight and ailing. She brought it home to her farm, where it still lives today.

That was the beginning of her mission. She decided she would become a voice, and eventually a sanctuary, for the turtles of Central Virginia.

With live turtles, puppets, shells, bones and sometimes paint, she began teaching schoolchildren and adults. She tells them how box turtles can live up to a century. How their shells grow smoother and brighter over time, as years of burrowing polish the ridged scutes (bony plates). How the shell is a living and permanent part of a turtle’s body — not something cast aside like a hermit crab’s shell, as one misguided forester once told her.

Education is crucial, she says, because “the only stronghold turtles have is private property.” If people understand turtles’ needs, and the urgency of protecting them, they can create habitats in wooded back yards and farms.

“If you look at a map, from Richmond on up to D.C., there are no preserved areas,” Whittington says. Counties like Henrico and Hanover must act to preserve large tracts of woodland, she says, before growth makes it impossible.

box-turtle_courtesy-shelley-whittington.JPG
An Eastern box turtle (Photo courtesy Shelley Whittington)

Laws protecting turtles in the wild are scant. It’s illegal to sell any native turtle species in Virginia, but they may be given away and kept as pets (up to five per species), or hunted. A team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University reported recently that the state’s snapping turtles are being overharvested, as males are butchered for meat and females shipped to breeding operations in China.

Virginia does have strict rules governing the fate of wild turtles who spend time in captivity. Wildlife rehabilitators must release turtles exactly where they were found, even if their habitat has been destroyed, and they can’t release an animal if it has been kept for more than 30 days. They also aren’t supposed to release wild animals that may not be able to thrive on their own. So if a box turtle has lost a limb, or its shell has been so damaged that it can’t fully close, it may be euthanized.

That’s not right, Whittington says. If humans are responsible for injuring these turtles, she says, we should also ensure they have someplace to live. And turtles have astonishing regenerative abilities — when given time and care, they can heal from amputations or fractured shells and survive.

That’s why Whittington is working to create a sanctuary on her farm to care for turtles that cannot survive in the wild, as well as take in pet turtles and tortoises from abusive or inadequate homes.

On her 20-acre farm, she’s constructing two half-acre pens — one for male box turtles, one for females — that are fenced and secured with metal flashing that’s planted deep in the earth. Before being accredited as a sanctuary, she must complete the fencing, as well as a system to identify and keep records on individual turtles. Every box turtle shell has 13 scutes with unique, contrasting patterns. Whittington hopes to develop a shell-identification app that can track turtles by these patterns, both at the sanctuary and in the wild.

6N2A0138Turtle200dpi.JPG

Whittington with Sully, a sulcata tortoise (Photo by Jay Paul)

Whittington already has a few native turtles she uses for her educational programs, as well as some pets that have come from negligent or inadequate homes. One of these is Sully, an enormous sulcata tortoise with studded front legs and inquisitive black eyes. He had been kept in a dry, bare greenhouse after outgrowing his quarters.

Whittington’s ultimate goal, she says, is to be “the Maymont of turtles”: a place where kids can see turtles in a natural habitat and meet them face to face. It’ll take time and money; right now, the nonprofit is largely funded by the fees Whittington receives for her educational programs. But she’s determined to try.

In 250 million years, she says, “they’ve survived everything. Now, will they survive us? That’s the question.”

Want to help? The Box Turtle Sanctuary of Central Virginia is looking for volunteers to assist with the fencing, as well as donations of flashing and other materials, and the development of the shell identification app. Learn more.

Jack’s Story

 
 
Found a turtle e

 

John and his dog,Venus were hiking through a local farm field when they came upon a damaged turtle. John noticed the turtles damaged shell and realized the turtle was in trouble. He set about trying to find someone who could help get the turtle the care that he needed.

“It was a Sunday” John recalls, “and everyplace I called was closed or did not deal with wildlife. I found the Sanctuary through a search on my phone, and they were happy to help this little guy out, and agreed to meet me nearby. They took what little knowledge I knew about where I found him, and said that if his injuries were not life threatening, they hoped to be able to return him to the wild, once he was healed and they had a chance to check out the habitat where he came from.”
“I am so glad that I decided to take that hike with Venus that day, she is the one that pointed him out to me. I also learned a lot about turtles and their struggle for habitat.”

 

https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.networkforgood.com/
So This is Jack. Like Many Turtles, One Eye Jack was a victim of a motorized vehicle. Being on soft earth likely saved his life. Jack lost an eye, a leg and was left with a badly broken shell. Unable to move, Jack was fortunate that John and his dog came along and got him the help he needed. Jack has healed now, but is unable to contribute to wild populations, and with only one eye, catching live food is difficult.

Box Turtles are aptly named. In the face of danger, they close up tightly, like a box, to wait out the danger. Unfortunately, when motorized vehicles are involved, turtles don’t have a chance. Jack was a lucky one.

Do we release Jack back into the wild, into a habitat that is already compromised, and with diminished mobility and sight? 

When Box turtles are found injured, and taken to a licensed wildlife veterinarian, and then supported by a rehabber, they are required to be returned  to the exact place where they were found. Normally this is a good practice, as box turtles learn their habitat as they grow and will try to return to it if they are removed from it. Unfortunately often times this habitat is already compromised, which likely contributed to the injury.

Wildlife rehabilitators work with Veterinarians to  provides medical care to injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife. Their goal  is to  treat the animal by providing suitable diet and nutrition, and  safe and sanitary shelter, while it recovers, with the goal to return it to its native habitat:

” The goal is not to make pets out of wildlife, to display them around humans, or to release any wildlife with handicaps in which they may not be able to protect themselves, not healthy enough to thrive unable to fit in with other wildlife, or become vulnerable to predators. 

Being a wildlife rehabber is a full time, unpaid, volunteer position, and most  are not in a situation to be able to keep any of the animals that they tend to. Having to euthanize any animal is difficult, and it is often a thin line that must be drawn.  You will find rehabbers releasing turtles that have handicaps (3 legs) or broken and missing pieces of their shells, making them vulnerable to predators. According to Virginia State Laws the only other option is euthanasia.

As the Box Turtle is not a game species in Virginia,  it is silently disappearing through-out the state.  Small and  insignificant, there are few studies done within the commonwealth. Land held by the state is often used for other purposes, including logging, which leaves only private property as a last retreat for these ancient reptiles.

The Box Turtle Sanctuary is making a difference in the lives of turtles like Jack by providing a safe and natural habitat for Jack to live his life.

Jacks new habitat, will provide generations of children a place to explore the wonders of a turtles world. To see and discover how our native Box turtles live, what they eat, how they evolved, and what we can do to help them survive.

But we need your support. Sign up to learn how you can be an advocate for box turtles, volunteer for fence building day, or Donate. Every little bit that goes toward our Shell ID App or our New Fence, helps us move forward to our ultimate goal to provide a turtle educational center for children of all ages.

  • A place to explore the fascinating world of the Eastern Box Turtle
  • To promote and encourage the protection of native habitat
  • To provide safe sanctuary to misplaced and lost box turtles.

Please sign up for BTS of CVA’s Newsletter, and Don’t forget to share this with your turtle loving friends..!

Shelley

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. SeussThe Lorax

 

Box Turtles and Rehabilitation

Box Turtles and Rehabilitation

This Shell, that has provided the Box Turtle protection for millions of years, is no match for vehicles .

The unique defense mechanism of the Eastern Box Turtle has allowed for this small unambiguous reptile to survive on this planet for millions of years. It is the only animal that responds to danger by quickly and quietly closing up its shell, to form a tight box. Here in his home, this ancient reptile is well suited to wait until the danger has passed.

Our powered and developed landscape is no place for such a small dinosaur as he now finds himself closing his shell in the middle of busy streets,  on mowed lawns, in crop fields, logging roads, shopping centers and golf courses. There is so little land in Central Virginia that is not logged, farmed or developed, that generations of genetic diversity have been silently wiped out.  To make matters even more interesting, the Box turtles ability to survive extensive damage and to heal itself is close to miraculous.

Wildlife rehabilitators work with Veterinarians to  provides medical care to injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife. Their goal  is to  treat the animal by providing suitable diet and nutrition, and  safe and sanitary shelter, while it recovers, with the goal to return it to its native habitat:

” The goal is not to make pets out of wildlife, to display them around humans, or to release any wildlife with handicaps in which they may not be able to protect themselves, not healthy enough to thrive unable to fit in with other wildlife, or become vulnerable to predators. 

Wild animals that sustain injuries or illnesses preventing them from living successfully in the wild usually are euthanized (have their suffering ended in a humane fashion). Occasionally, individual animals that have recovered from their injuries but are not able to survive in the wild are placed in educational facilities.”  (from National Wildlife Rehabilators website)

 

A three legged turtle often cannot contribute to future generations. Missing limbs make mating difficult and nest digging nearly impossible.

When Box turtles are found injured, and taken to a licensed wildlife veterinarian, and then supported by a rehabber, they are required to be returned  to the exact place where they were found. Normally this is a good practice, as box turtles learn their habitat as they grow and will try to return to it if they are removed from it. Unfortunately often times this habitat is already compromised, which likely contributed to the injury.

Being a wildlife rehabber is a full time, unpaid, volunteer position, and most  are not in a situation to be able to keep any of the animals that they tend to. Having to euthanize any animal is difficult, and it is often a thin line that must be drawn.  You will find rehabbers releasing turtles that have handicaps (3 legs) or broken and missing pieces of their, shells making them vulnerable to predators. According to Virginia State Laws the only other option is euthanasia.

As the Box Turtle is not a game species in Virginia,  it is silently disappearing through-out the state.  Small and  insignificant, there are few studies done within the commonwealth. Land held by the state is often used for other purposes, including logging, which leaves only private property as a last retreat for these ancient reptiles.

How Many Become Road Kill?

When finding a damaged turtle, it is important to put it in a dark, quiet place until help can be arranged.

Although it would be difficult to count the total number of turtles that become road kill every year in the United States, James Gibbs, a conservation biologist at the State University of New York in Syracuse decided to make an educated estimate. He took into consideration three factors: traffic density, the speed with which turtles cross the road and the number of roads in the US.

Gibbs estimate shows that turtle populations in the Northeast, Southeast and the Great lakes region suffer from a 10 to 20 percent mortality rate due to traffic encounters, high enough to deplete turtle populations. The Animal Protection Institute in Sacramento, California, places road kill mortality between one half and one million animals daily.

In Central Virginia alone 99% of injured turtles that make it to a wildlife veterinarian are suffering from a collision with a motorized vehicle. The remaining 1% is damage done by domestic canines.

Sanctuary or Death?

Turtles and encounters with motorized vehicles, is not a turtle problem, but a human consequence.

Here at the Box Turtle Sanctuary, our current focus is on education. We are not a rehabb facility, as the time commitment, both to become licensed and of the maintenance of in house rehabbs would not allow me to pursue the goal of the sanctuary which is to provide permanent  safe shelter through natural, native habitat for misplaced eastern box turtles, due to habitat loss or that have been pets and are unable to be released into the wild. This includes animals that were damaged due to human encroachment, treated at wildlife vets, rehabbed and unable to be returned to the wild due to handicaps.

This being said, I am more then happy to educate turtle owners on how to achieve better environments and habitats for their pet turtles and I will continue to advocate for any turtle in need to make sure it gets the help that is necessary for its health.

Humans are responsible for this extreme loss of habitat, and as stewards of this earth and this land, it is our responsibility to provide habitat for all creatures that were residents before us.

So where do we go from here?

I am amazed at how Central Virginia continues to promote urban sprawl. Our residents and their children are becoming more and more removed from our natural world. We are at a critical time in our evolution, where humans are poised to create the next great extinction event.

Education is only the tip of the spear. Providing a safe sanctuary for these misplaced turtles, also provides an educational opportunity for study, exploration and a connection to the earth that we once shared .

Turtles are ancient, they are survivors, and they are part of our Earth.

PLEASE leave your comments

 

 

 

 

Wildlife Rehabbing

 Wildlife Rehabilitation in Virginia

A rehabber, is someone who takes care of those that are recovering from a specific condition, to fix it up and make it better. Often times when someone mentions rehab, we think of drug or alcohol abuse and the process it takes to “get off the wagon”.

But a Rehabber , in wildlife terminology is the greatest asset we currently have to benefit our wildlife, and to help get them back into the wild where they belong. But it is not an easy road, nor is rehabbing wildlife the road to riches.

When Wildlife is injured or sick, and are presented to a wildlife veterinarian, they will prepare a plan to get that animal well as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our two major Wildlife centers in Virginia, the Richmond Wildlife Center and the Wildlife Center of Virginia, are both working at capacity   and are busy with wildlife needing help. Fortunately, once their patients are stable and on the road to recovery, they are able to go to a rehabber that can give them the support and the care that they need until they are releasable.

You can find a list of licenced rehabilitators for Virginia here

WHAT IS A WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR?

A wildlife rehabilitator, also known as a “rehabber,” is a professionally trained person, that works with Veterinarians to  provides medical care to injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife. The goal of the rehabber is to medically treat the animal by providing suitable diet and nutrition, and to provide safe and sanitary shelter, so that it may return back to its natural habitat and family. The goal is not to make pets out of wildlife, to display them around humans, or to release any wildlife with handicaps in which they may not be able to protect themselves, not healthy enough to thrive, unable to fit in with other wildlife, or become vulnerable to predators.  Wild animals that sustain injuries or illnesses preventing them from living successfully in the wild usually are euthanized (have their suffering ended in a humane fashion). Occasionally, individual animals that have recovered from their injuries but are not able to survive in the wild are placed in educational facilities.

Rehabbing Wildlife is  an elaborate and time consuming undertaking, and there is no pay involved. Rehabbers work each and every day, all year long taking care of the animals in their care, but there is nothing more rewarding then watching that animal rejoin its family when it is returned to the wild.

HOW TO BECOME A WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR:

To become a wildlife rehabber, you will need to locate a licensed rehabber near you that has knowledge and experience rehabbing the species of animal that you are interested in working with.

To become a rehabber, you will first need to decide what species you would like to work with. In Virginia, there is no path that will allow you to focus on a specific animal,  you will find you will need to learn how to rehab other animals as well.
Locate a rehabber in your area who has extensive experience rehabbing those animals. To find a list of rehabbers in your area, call your local Animal Shelter, Humane Society, or visit this web site: www.nwrawildlife.org
Put in lots of volunteer time with a permitted rehabber before you make your final decision. Find out all you can about the nature of the animal, medical treatments, time, commitment, and finances (rehabbers pay for the cost of everything).

Rehabbers need to obtain specific knowledge including:

  • behavior,
  • diseases,
  • diagnosis,
  • wounds and injuries,
  • anatomy of the species,
  • first aid training,
  • triage treatment,
  • drugs and drug administration

 

Once you are sure you want to be a wildlife rehabber, you are ready to  apply for your state permit. In Virginia this will require a 2-year apprenticeship program before you may legally obtain a permit to rehab. During this 2-year period, a legally permitted rehabber will supervise you. To obtain the rehab application, call Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries:(804) 367-1000.

Wildlife rehabbers are required to attend wildlife training annually to keep their Federal or State permit legal and updated, and these classes are available at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, for a nominal fee.

Birds are protected by federal law and a Special Purpose Federal permit is required to handle and rehab birds. Click to  learn more about acquiring a Federal permit.

Wildlife Centers and Hospitals receive thousands of calls from communities all over the country every year from compassionate citizens who see injured wildlife and want to help.  Most injuries to wildlife are created by man, and as we destroy more and more of our natural world, we can expect more injuries to wildlife as they struggle just to survive.

Wildlife rehabbers are needed now more then ever, So if you have a love of wildlife, they could use your help now more then ever. Please do your part to help Wildlife in your area!

 

 

HELP ! I Found A Baby Turtle!

Baby Turtles ARE Amazing

a-hatchling-group-of-box-turtles

Baby Box Turtles

Finding such a small creature is indeed a stroke of chance and luck, but is it right to think that it needs help and that you should take it home?

Before you decide that this little dinosaur will be better off with you lets consider some facts and the circumstances.

EVERYTHING and I mean everything a turtle does is due to its connection with the earth and the weather in its habitat. Turtles have been surviving this way for more than 200 million years, yes, since the days of dinosaurs, and have evolved to have some amazing “super powers” to get them through the tough times. All turtles come from eggs, and like the Dinosaurs before them, incubation lasts for at least 60 days. In climates where turtles Brumate(Hibernate), it is not uncommon for hatchlings to stay in their underground nest for their first winter and wait for spring rains to awaken them for their first venture to the surface

digging-hole

Eastern Box Turtle digging a nest on the side of the road

of the earth.

All mother turtles will  prepare a nest by digging a hole with her back legs as deep as she can. Depending on the weather and food supply, some turtles will lay a clutch of eggs two or even three times a summer, and
although mother turtles abandon their nest after it is completed, each type of turtle will carefully find the best location to dig their nest and, to give their hatchlings the best chance of survival.  Most turtles, including water turtles will seek out land that is above flood level to place their nest, allowing temperatures in the nest to stay stable.

Why did you find a Baby Turtle?

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Baby Water Turtle

Fluctuating temperatures are the most common reason that one finds baby turtles during times of the year when you would not expect to find them. Late warm rains in October, or early warm rains in March sometimes trigger the “its spring” response in nestlings causing them to dig to the surface, only to find an inhospitable climate.

Baby Turtles are also often disturbed with construction. Finding baby turtles in newly dug piles of dirt from previously undisturbed wooded areas is becoming more and more common as we push the limits of preserved land, and encroach upon native habitat.

What Kind of Turtle Did You Find?

To the common eye, baby turtles all look alike, but can be easily differentiated by carefully looking at their feet.

Box turtles are land turtles and have small dinosaur like feet. It is very important to note that Box Turtles are NOT water turtles, and although they can swim, they will also drown if unable to get themselves out of the water.

Baby Water turtles like sliders, paints and cooters, have little webbed feet, and surprisingly the nests are often a good distance to the fresh water where their parents live.

snapping_turtle_baby_

Baby Snapping Turtle

Baby Snappers are also often found away from water and are distinguishable by their prehistoric
looking shell and extremely long tail.

Ocean turtles have flippers, are found on the beach and should NEVER be taken home. They are endangered and protected and It is nearly impossible to raise them in captivity. If you find one, you can help it get to the ocean, if it is injured, contact the local authorities for more directions.

Here are the things that all baby turtles have in common:

yoke-sack

Baby Turtle With Yolk

  • Baby Turtles rely on their dull coloration for camouflage.
  • Baby Turtles have no protection other than hiding.
  • All predators find baby turtles to be a nice snack. It is believed only one in 1,000 will survive to reproductive age.
  • Baby Turtles are prone to dehydration.
  • Baby Turtles hatch with a “Yolk” and will / can survive 7-10 days once hatched with out food.
  • Studies have shown that baby turtles are not born with the homing instinct that their parents have, but acquire it over time. (exception: ocean turtles)

 

What To Do With Your New Find?

heron

A heron enjoys a baby turtle snack.

This is where it gets tricky.
Due to habitat loss and destruction, it is not uncommon for mother turtles to locate their nests in places that are less then ideal. One recently more common place is along road ways where the earth is well packed, and with a “stream” (ditch) along side. Not an ideal place for baby turtles of any kind, and with the lack of habitat in areas that are well established by humans, baby turtles show up in the most unlikely places.

Baby Turtles are great to visit with, take some photos and show your kids, but unless we can let these turtles remain in the wild, they will soon be extinct in areas that they called home for millions of years.

That being said, to release a baby turtle in suburbia and expect it to survive to adult hood is far-fetched indeed.

Baby Turtles need shelter. They need food and water.  If the seasons are appropriate your little turtle should be taken to an area that will supply him with what he needs to survive and grow and be released. If it is late fall through early spring, you should contact a local wildlife rehabber or a wildlife veterinarian that can give you names of qualified people that can help direct you.

Turtles as pets are a Hugh responsibility. Turtles can live 50-100 years and require a habitat that simulates as close as possible  the habitat that they would have in the wild, including natural sunshine, and a varied diet.

The two baby box turtles that were brought to me this winter with severe dehydration, perished shortly after their arrival. Both of them were initially kept by well meaning  people that wanted to share them with their children. I was contacted once the adults realized the turtles were fading.  If these two little ones had been released / relocated when found, it is possible they would be alive today. IMG_1555

The best way to help turtles is to educate!

I offer educational programs for groups of any age and am currently  accepting dates for Summer 2017. My programs include hands on Adult box turtles, along with water turtles and babies.

I am happy to help our shelled friends in any way I can. If  you have questions, Please leave me a message.

Turtles all the way down!

The Trouble with Turtles; Dinosaurs in a Mechanized World

I just spent a good part of the last two weeks with dinosuars.

old turtle new turtle

260 million yr old “Pre-Turtle” next to a modern day relative.

No I’m not talking about the scary ones with lots of teeth. I’m talking about our little native dinosaurs that live right here in Central Virginia.

I am talking about “The Amazing Turtles of Virginia”

This year, my educational program, that I share with the local county Parks and Rec summer camp program, included a photo of the newly found fossil that helps explain how digging in, helped turned the turtles ribs into his shell.

IMG_1554

Summer Parks and Rec Program “The Amazing Turtles of Virginia”

You see, 260 million years ago, the only animals that could survive were able to get out of the hot sun by digging into the earth, flying away or finding some other place to hide.

Our Turtles of today, well they evolved from those animals that learned to dig in.. and with the amazing super power of being ectothermic, they were forced to wait out the in-hospitable climate for possibly very long periods of time.

Weather was un-predictable. Finding food and mates nearly impossible. Survival depended upon adaptations. Other super powers began to emerged, and the turtles’ shell became more then a shield offering protection during digging, and became a tool to protect turtles from preditors.

Turtles evolved with the planet they live on and brumation, a period of winter dormancy in reptiles that occurs when temperatures fall below a level at which they can sustain normal metabolic

female box turtle

A female Box turtle needs lots of calcium for egg production and shell growth.

function, became a super power of survival. It is amazing to think just how much turtles depend on the climate of their specific geographical area,  facing each day as the weather permits.

Female turtles began storing sperm for future use, and turtles of today can store it for up to 5 years, producing viable eggs years after being with a male, a super power that almost guaranteed survival. By the time 10 million years passed, turtles became the recognizeable scavengers we know today.

Scavengers?

Well, yes. Although some turtles, mostly isolated populations, evolved to eat purely vegetarian diets, most turtles are Omnivors and will consider eating any organic material they happen upon, including dead things.

ghost crab

A ghost crab will eat baby sea turtles as they head to the ocean after leaving their nest.

Our beautiful Eastern Box Turtle, once very common up and down the eastern seaboard, was considered the crab of the woods. No, they don’t walk sideways, but like crabs who scavage on the beach, Box turtles patrol their home territories always on the look out for a slug, mushroom or an easy meal, bones and all.

Box Turtles, like their name implies, are able to close themselves up totally inside their shells. No, they’e not making calls with their shell-phone or taking shell-fies, They close up their shells in the presence of danger. Not many native preditors can get a tightly closed box turtle shell open, and this techinique has served the Box turtle well for millions of years.

 

Things have changed for turtles world wide.

Some cultures have eaten some species to the brink of extinction, others we have wiped out with invasive species. Most turtles however, are suffering from habitat loss due to human encroachment, pollution, and illegal poaching for both the pet trade and human consumption.

And so it seems even with super powers in place,

dead turtles

In November 2014, authorities in Vietnam confiscated 10 tons of dead sea turtles, the single largest seizure of marine turtles ever.

turtles have met their match in the Human race. The Box turtle that closes inside his shell for on-coming traffic, has a slim chance for long term survival.

I Loved my short two week stint sharing  “The AmazingTurtles of Virginia”  with summer camp participants. I love introducing these children to some turtles that they have never seen, answering  questions, telling them about life cycles and super powers, and helping a couple turtles gain better habitats along the way. It gives me hope that turtles have a future living among us

Turtles have inhabitated this space for millions of years. A committment from the human race is needed to preserve habitat, not only for the turtles but for future generations, who may never have the experience of finding a turtle in their own back yard.

Turtles are truly amazing. There is still so much unknown about them and their life and so much more to learn from them.

turtles all the way downTurtles,  are so deeply intune with the ebb and flow of the earth, that they have become one of the first indicators of the health of our planet. As we pollute the oceans and destroy woodland habitats, we kill turtles daily, while tens of thousands are killed on our roadways yearly. It is time to take action for the health of our planet,  our future, and the future of all the earths inhabitants.

Please do your part… after all… it is:

Turtles all the way down.

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.