Tag Archives: turtle

Stories from a Turtle’s Shell

21 Jan

Last month I was given a family treasure. Well, in MY mind it is a family treasure.

Here is a little turtle shell that once sat in my Grandmother’s curio cabinet. Way back in the 1960’s I used to look at it and admire it. I wished I had that little turtle shell. I really wished I had the baby turtle.


Where did it come from? What happened to the poor thing?  The shell is only two inches long. It’s the shell of a Western Painted Turtle. This little turtle probably hatched one Summer and would have been this size by Autumn. And then…I’ll never know.


My relatives have a cabin along the Wapsipinicon River in Iowa. Very probably this little turtle was born on that river. There are lots of Western Painted Turtles there now.

How’s this for a cosmic thought:  His relatives are living there now. Painted Turtles can live 40 years. Maybe one of his brothers or sisters is still there, and right now is lying under the mud, waiting for Spring. I hope so.

I have had a Central American Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherimma) since 1990. That’s almost 23 years! She looked old when I got her. If she was 20 years old when I got her she would be 43 now. Again, I can never know the truth.
But look at this, she is missing a foot!
Her foot was gone when I got her. I’ve always wondered what happened to her foot? I think a predator bit it off!!! These turtles live in Mexico and Central America. Maybe a Jaguar grabbed her!
She also has a big scar on the back end of her shell. A fang mark from the Jaguar!
I bet the Jaguar figured he was going to eat my turtle but No! She turned around and bit him on the nose! The Jaguar screamed and ran off and then… well, maybe I don’t know for sure.
I have also had a Red-foot Tortoise for 3 years. She (you can tell it’s a she by her stubby little tail) has a shell deformity called “pyramiding”. The shell is not evenly rounded but has peaks and valleys.
Her shell looked like this when I got her. As she gets older maybe it will look less
pyramided as she gets a better diet and more sunshine.
There is a ton of information about pyramiding in tortoises. One website says pyramiding is caused by:

too much protein
too little calcium
too much phosphorous (a poor calcium :phosphorous ratio)
not enough D3

However there are some less obvious, though equally important factors involved

lack of exercise
hydration status
grain based diets
lack of fiber
too much food

So my Red-foot probably got the wrong diet, too much protein, when she was young. It’s easy to think they like fruits and worms like our native American Box Turtles but Red-foots like to graze on weeds. They eat a lot of roughage like a cow!

Another Wapsi river trip

26 Jul

Here are some pictures from another canoe trip to the Wapsi River. During this trip we released the little Softshell turtles on the exact sandbar where we captured them a few weeks ago.

A Western Painted Turtle. The plastron (underside) of a Painted Turtle is beautiful and looks like someone painted it.

A little Northern Water Snake who released his musky scent onto our hands. Very stinky.

Releasing the little Soft-shell Turtles.

Perfectly suited to it’s environment. The Softshell is sand colored, has a snorkel nose for sneaky breathing, and is fast as lightning when it comes to catching fish for dinner.

I almost brought this stump home but it is 3 feet tall about 4 feet wide, and weighs a lot. It might look good in my turtle pond. It should be there all summer so I still may go get it.

These 2 birds are called Killdeers. They run around on the sand and will fake a wing injury to lure you away from their eggs.

The river is getting low from the drought we are having this year.

We seined these out of a tiny little backwater pond and released them into the main channel.

Turtle pond pic

6 Jul

One of my boys sent me this pic of my turtle pond. I like it.

Soft-shell turtle babies

6 Jul

While we were at the Wapsi, we walked along a sandbar and I saw some little pointy snouts poking out of the sand. I caught two baby Softshell Turtles. I couldn’t resist bringing them home for awhile. I promise they are going back to the Wapsi River later this summer. They get huge; the females have shells the size of a garbage-can lid. Also, they are lightning fast and bite.
But for now, they have adapted to captivity and eat pieces of frozen fish, also dried shrimp and worms. They are carnivores.
After I had them a few days I got brave enough to put them with the baby Red-ears. I thought the Red-ears might be injured since the Softshells are bigger, but the Softshells were afraid of the Red-ears! Now they all get along fine. Another concern of mine was the possibility of wild parasites transferring to my baby Red-ears. That is still a concern and I only hope that it does not become an issue.

Softshells are known to be mostly aquatic but these little guys do bask, and on the river I see them basking on logs.

Here’s another piece of wood I found at the river. I have put it in the tank where my big Red-tail Shark can hide in it. It would be perfect for a Knifefish, wouldn’t it?

Back to the Softshells:

The baby turtles get a bigger home

6 Jul

The baby turtles are now in a 55 gallon aquarium. I was keeping them in a plastic tub, in shallow water, and taking them outside daily. It has been so incredibly hot that, by the time I get home from work, it is too dangerous to take them outdoors.
I started their new set-up by preparing the canister filter. I didn’t want one of them to get sucked onto the filter intake, so I added a sponge onto the end of it.

Then I dug through a box of fake plants and found some realistic ones.

Not this one!!

I put some “river rock” on the bottom. Not sand or gravel, I don’t want the babies to swallow any.

A Repti-Sun 5.0 bulb on the branch I found at the river.

Bad turtle news, some more bad turtle news and some good turtle news.

28 Jun

I came home from work 2 days ago and found little baby turtle #4 was dead. He was in the “incubator” in paper towels.
The previous night we had visitors and I did handle the baby turtle, taking him outdoors and showing them his yolk sac. Most curious, when I found him dead, the paper towels were quite dry. When I changed paper towels every day, I would moisten them with water from a spray bottle. I didn’t get them wet enough and I wonder if the towels were wicking moisture away from his body.
I took a couple photos of him but decided they are just sad, and decided not to post any.
The second bad news is that, since the incubator is now open, I wanted to dig up the egg clutch that was laid on May 7. They have been underground in the turtle enclosure, protected from large predators by some wire. I gathered some digging tools, in particular a couple of spoons so I could dig very carefully.
Here is what I found:

Five eggs were completely destroyed. They were crawling with insects. Sow bugs, worms and slugs all over them! Gross. I found one good egg and one egg that looked good but is quite sunken on the bottom.
If I had found these eggs to be healthy I was going to leave the batch laid a few days ago in the ground, but I didn’t not want the same fate to befall those eggs so I dug them up.

Sadly, I broke one egg, but recovered four good-looking eggs.
In the “incubator” I have 6 eggs.

So far this summer the momma Red-ear has laid three clutches of eggs.
First clutch: 5 eggs total, one not fertile, 4 hatched, one prematurely opened by me. 3 survivors.
Second clutch: 7 eggs total. 5 clearly destroyed. One healthy egg, one questionable.
Third clutch: 5 eggs total. One accidentally broken by me, 4 healthy looking so far.
I am finding out that raising baby turtles can be heart-breaking, but it’s worth it don’t you think?

TURTLES… and rain.

24 Jun

The smallest baby Red-ear Slider is doing well. I am keeping his damp paper towel nest as clean as possible. I am pretending that I work in a zoo, as opposed to other extremely lucky and talented people who really DO work in a zoo!

See how much egg yolk he has to absorb? Maybe he will be ready to join the others in a week or so.

It has been a very dry month, but we got a pretty good storm last night. It rained 9/10ths of an inch of rain and one-tenth of an inch of Japanese Beetles. I always wondered where they came from.

The rain may have triggered the big momma Red-ear Slider to lay eggs…again! Here she is just a few minutes ago. The ground is nice and soft and it is about 85F, very humid.