Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Box Turtle’

Road Warrior: Eastern Box Turtle Strolls Down Interstate

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Jon Pope, owner & proprietor with his wife Michelle of Uncle Jon’s Coffee Houses, encountered an exceedingly strange sight as he dropped off Interstate I-195 onto Route 105 in Marion, Massachusetts.  Traffic does, indeed, slow down quickly as one enters this sailing hamlet on Sippican Harbor.  So, Jon is used to breaking hard in transitioning from Interstate to sleeping village.  In this case, though, he got behind a four-legged rather than a four-wheeled entity.  Jon jumped out of his car and rescued a male adult Eastern box turtle strolling down the off-ramp.  As much surprised as Jon, this road warrior took an instant liking to his new two-legged friend.

Jon Pope Admires Rescued Male Eastern Box Turtle

His shell records a series of human encounters, none as pleasant as today’s rescue by Jon.  Most of the forward marginals, the outer ring of small scutes rimming the carapace (top shell), have been broken off completely.  His rear marginals are nicked and chinked so much that they seem like serration. 

Lots of Dings and Chinks along the Marginals of This Road Warrior

With his handsome red eyes, manly tail and plastron (bottom shell) concavity, this veteran road warrior exhibited all the traits of an exemplar male Eastern box turtle.

Male Eastern Box Turtle

Tonight we’re puzzling over an appropriate home to release our new reptilian friend.  Clearly, the Interstate Highway System isn’t a safe habitat.  He’s been lucky to have survived this long.  So, we’ll be investigating potential Eastern box turtle habitat in the SouthCoast area.

Wisdom of the Ancient Hatchling

Sunday, September 14th, 2008
Eastern box turtle hatchlings combine the tenderness, vulnerability and “cuteness” of a tiny new born with the stoic appearance of ancient wisdom. Whether a reflection of the stored knowledge of hundreds of millions of years of fine-tuned DNA evolution or simply a “Fun House” mirror trick inside the brains of our less seasoned DNA, these little critters certainly take on the appearance of all-knowingness.
Eastern Box Turtle Hatchling
“Speak to me, oh Sage of the Ages.  Tell me the mysteries of life.”  Via trans-species telepathy we hear, “Sleep through the winter; sleep through the cold.  Sleep through the storms and never be bold.  Sleep when it’s chilly; sleep when it’s hot.  Sleep when it’s cloudy and eat when it’s not.”

Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings in Motion

These characters were uncovered in a surprise nest at the edge of the Fox Island Marsh Conservation Area and released back into the wild on Friday.  See the full details of their discovery and release in the posting below.

Fox Island Marsh Conservation Area Welcomes Endangered Babies

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

The Fox Island Marsh Conservation Area lies in South Wellfleet and, along with its neighbor the Pilgrim Spring Woodlands Conservation Area, comprises 68 acres of woods and 100 acres of salt marsh.  An exquisite parcel of these conservation lands is the Whale Bone Point Trail (see Google image below) described as the jewel in the crown for its unmatched overlook views of the Fox Island Marsh and Blackfish Creek.  These lands are owned by the Town of Wellfleet and the Wellfleet Conservation Trust.

Whale Bone Point

This last week the Fox Island Conservation Area witnessed the arrival of babies from two Massachusetts protected species: diamondback terrapins (threatened) and Eastern box turtles (species of special concern).  While the Whale Bone Point area had been assessed as box turtle habitat and the point has been documented as a terrapin nesting site, these are the very first babies of both species that have actually been discovered on the land as they were being born.   The conservationists, environmentalists and naturalists who worked to protect this precious habitat deserve two thumbs up, one for each of these listed species.

One of Four Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings

Last week a resident abutting the Whale Bone Point area discovered four Eastern box turtle hatchlings in a nest in her mulched landscaping.  That story was reported below under Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings.  These adorable babies were a bit disoriented, one might even say “grumpy,” at being so uncerimoniously disturbed from their post-natal snooze, and they were a little dehydrated, too.  So, after a few days of turtle R&R, the foursome was released into the protected woodlands of Whale Bone Point near their nest site.

Release of Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings

After releasing these box turtle hatchlings on Friday, we trekked down to the tip of Whale Bone Point where we had documented diamondback terrapin nesting since 2000 based on depredated nests and discarded egg shells.  We discovered three emergence holes within about 12 inches of each other that contained the remnants of escaped hatchlings, undeveloped eggs and some eggs that had been destroyed by root and insect predation.  In the middle nest, tucked under the lip and cradled in roots that had drained moisture from the nest and had contorted the embryos inside their egg shells within their nose-like grip, three pipped and cracked eggs remained.  One had not survived the attack, but two others were alive, albeit distorted, severely dehydrated and frozen in a trance-like stupor.  The clip below documents our removal of one of these hatchlings from its egg cocoon; the babies were so weak that they couldn’t free themselves from the dried egg shell and dig themselves out of the nest.

Rescue of Terrapin Hatchling Trapped by Roots and Dehydration

You can see from the clip above how undersized these hatchlings are.  The image below gives you a good sense of their actual size.

Undersized Terrapin Hatchlings

The good news:  Terrapins (and most turtles, actually) are Timex critters.  “They take a licking and keep on ticking.”  Turtles are extremely resilient.  Given a little TLC, even the most hapless turtle can be given a head-start toward survival.  These two babies just need a few days of care before they, too, will join their siblings in the nursery salt marsh abutting the Fox Island Marsh Conservation Area.  And in about eight years … Mark your calendar for June 15th, 2016 … they may be returning to Whale Bone Point to deposit their own nest of hatchlings.  And so the cycle goes on.  Save one turtle and your action ripples through the ages.  Precisely like the “Time Machine” that Nature truly is.

Two Terrapin Hatchlings Released at Whale Bone Point

Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
Gardening can yield some unusual crops. A resident of Paine Hollow in South Wellfleet was clearing the plantings around her cottage when she discovered a hole in the mulch covered bed. At the bottom, four perfectly healthy, but grumpy Eastern box turtle hatchlings were hunkered down for an overcast, windy and raw September day. 

Four Eastern Box Turtle Hatchlings

They seem small … that is, until you compare them to diamondback terrapin hatchlings that emerged a short distance away.

DBT & EBT Size Comparison

Comparison of Terrapin (Left) & Box Turtle (Right) Hatchlings

These hatchlings were discovered at the edge of conservation land, the Whale Bone Trail, that I had assesssed last fall as prime Eastern box turtle habitat.  What a beautiful way to have your assessment confirmed!

Eastern Box Turtle Hatchling Close-Up