Box Turtle Myths No One Talks About

Real or Mythical

Myths have followed turtles since the beginning of time. It is really no wonder as they have been living on our planet before the continental shift, and their fossils appear on every major land mass. Turtles also appear to have super powers, and have survived mass extinctions that wiped out most of the life on Earth.  Real or mythical, Turtles are amazing survivors, but without our help in protecting their habitat, it is unlikely they will survive this time of  “Man”.  So lets get a couple things straight.

 

Myth #1: Turtles seek out roadways to absorb heat

Although asphalt does retain heat from the sun, there is no scientific evidence that turtles will seek out roadways for the ambient heat.

Unfortunately, many of our roads overlap with turtle habitat.

Turtles cross roads for many reasons. It is more likely, However, that the roadways cross the turtles habitat, and the turtles are doing nothing more than trying to survive. This is what I have found in my observations of Eastern Box Turtles, when they approach new territory and surfaces.

1) Turtles are observant. When faced with a “new” clearing, opening, meadow or roadway, a Box Turtle will almost always stop not far from where they entered and they will take it all in.

2) Turtles are not in a hurry. They have no idea that a roadway, farmed  field or  mowed yard is a dangerous place to be, and remember, he carries his defense on his back.

3) Box Turtles live in territories that are developed as they age and explore.  They can locate where their favorite blueberry bush is, the water hole, or their favorite place to dig in. Similar to how birds fly south, Turtles are equipped with the ability to navigate, perhaps reading the location of the sun, or using the earths magnetic fields. Choosing to sit in a roadway for heat would be a learned behavior, that would most certainly not end well for the turtle.

4) For millions of years, Turtles and their cycle of life has evolved around the sun. As cold blooded reptiles, their functionality is controlled by the length of the day and the power of the sun. Where as Snakes may absorb heat from hard surfaces like rocks and roadways, A turtles shell provides shelter and camouflage and absorbs heat from the suns rays and the ambient temperature around him.

I probably have close to a hundred videos of Box Turtles doing nothing. They sit and observe. If they are not hungry or looking for other turtles they seem to enjoy just soaking up the sun.

Myth #2: Turtles shed their shells to grow larger.

Once damaged, Keratin will not grow back, but the bone will compensate and become denser on the top.

Never.  Turtles are Reptiles not crustaceans. A turtles shell is part of its body. His Back bone and his ribs  fused millions of years ago to create the shell that has allowed him to become the amazing  and unique animal that he is today. Some Scientist believe the shell was formed as the animals took refuge in the earth, where the shell allowed an anti-crush tool against the pressure of the dirt. Others believe the shell formed as a shield against predators. However this shell was formed, it is indeed an incredible adaptation that has allowed turtles a “super power” against extinction.

The top layer of a turtle shell is made from Keratin. This is the same stuff your hair and fingernails are made of. Some water turtles, like Paints and sliders, shed this top layer of keratin yearly as they grow. Under the shed scute is a new layer of keratin. Our Eastern Box Turtles never shed their keratin. On the occasion that they are chewed on by dogs, the keratin is destroyed first and is the only protection for the bone of the shell.

Myth #3: Turtles make good pets.

When my family was young, my son had a friend whose family had taken two baby eastern painted turtles from the wild. Among the family of three young boys, the turtles were handled a lot, and participated in a number of “races”.  They lived in a 10 gallon tank with less then six inches of water to prevent the inevitable escapee. The tank was rarely  cleaned, light and warmth came from the aquarium light designed for fish, and there was a sole corner “perch” for them to dry out on. As the boys grew, they tired of the turtles. A family excursion, and my offer to care for the turtles while they were away, finally allowed these two little eastern painted turtles an opportunity to be turtles. They are now 25 years old, and in the Summer, they become part of my education program, and are currently, happily,  facing another Virginia winter in their fenced pond, being turtles.

Easily purchased as hatchlings, warm weather African Sulcatas quickly outgrow most indoor accommodations.

For us to attempt to duplicate the habitat of any turtle is quite a feat. Turtles live in micro-habitats.  They are attached to the cycles of the earth. Brumation (hibernation for reptiles) is a physical change caused by the seasons, the sun, the length of the days.  We can indeed take the turtle out of its environment and keep it in an artificial one, Sometimes we have to do this for the turtles own health. But should we do this to make them pets?

Building an artificial habitat  for turtles is a costly  process to do correctly and requires as much space as possible. Proper lighting must duplicate the sun, humidity and temperature needs to simulate the native environment,  a variety of food and clean water is a constant.

Turtles are a long term, often difficult pet that can live upward of 50 years.  Many of our native varieties are now protected and state laws make it illegal to remove them from the wild. Some states require permits and proof of custody for native species.

It is more than important that we instill an interest in these amazing reptiles in our youth, and turtles are indeed amazing, fascinating and fun creatures to  visit and interact with. When kept in captivity, they should be given every opportunity to live in an outside native habitat and as close to what mother nature intended. If a pet turtle is in your future, Please Adopt. There are turtle rescues across the country for both native and exotic species. Make sure you do your homework first and learn about what the needs are for your potential new pet.

Myth #4: Eating Turtles can cure what ails you.

Illegal poaching of turtle colonies world wide is decimating populations.

For  generations, the Chinese culture has exploited turtles and their parts as a cure for many maladies, from acne and use  as an aphrodisiac, to treating  night sweats and irritability .  Turtles are sold as charms and used in elixirs, potions, and collected as pets. There is no evidence to support turtles medicinal qualities and no scientific data has been collected to support any claims. Interestingly  enough, according to a new preliminary study, eating sea turtle eggs increases the health risk of heavy metal exposure in local communities in Panama. Although Studies have not been preformed on the health benefits of eating wild caught turtles, many colonies of turtles are struggling with toxic chemicals found in their own habitat and water, causing them health issues of their own.

According to Paul Gibbons, chief operating officer of the Behler Chelonian Center, a turtle conservancy in California, “The Chinese have already driven their own species to near extinction, and now they are raiding ours” With the supply of Chinese turtles diminishing, American varieties have become a hot commodity with  the box turtle, mud turtles and painted turtles becoming among the most valued abroad.

All  turtles and tortoises are threatened,  and  it is estimated that 40 percent of them in the United States are in danger of extinction,   Although loss of habitat and road fatalities have greatly contributed to this number, “collection for the pet trade is a major threat to tortoises and freshwater turtles worldwide” According to the Turtle Conservation Coalition,

 

How can you Help save Turtles?

Making a new friend!

  • Spread the word. Advocate. Tell your friends and family. Turtles will only survive if we make the effort to educate those who have been unfortunate not to have experienced the joy in finding a wild turtle in their back yard.
  • Make your space turtle friendly. If you have a yard, plant native beneficial plants. Ones that provide life, in the way of food and shelter for wildlife. Leave your leaves! If you must rake them, leave them in a corner or under bushes. Leaves are the food for the earth and  provide shelter and food for many small animals and beneficial insects. If you have a pond or water feature, make sure it is turtle friendly with easy ins and outs.
  • Don’t have a yard? Volunteer at, and support your local nature center or wildlife sanctuary. There is always work to be done and you can learn tons of cool stuff, get exercise and help wildlife!
  • Keep your dogs from roaming in turtle habitat. Domestic dogs are the second most common cause of injury to turtles (Can you guess who #1 is?)
  • Help turtles cross the road. When you see a turtle crossing or about to cross the road, timing is crucial, but your safety and the safety of others cannot be understated. When safe, always move a turtle in the direction it is going.
  • Get Involved. The Box Turtle Sanctuary is looking for People like YOU. Do you want to help but don’t know how.. help is needed with fundraisers, computer entry, facility upgrades and fence building. Do you have a special skill you can share? bookkeeping? website maintenance? blogging?  YOU CAN Make a Difference! Please reach out!

Solutions start at home, in our communities and neighborhoods. Do you or your family have an Idea on how to make your community turtle friendly?  Do you need help getting started? Let me know.. I am here to help!

 

Shelley

“And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.” Dr. Suess

 

 

                                                                  

 

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!