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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Dog Days Descend — 9 August 2001

Gripped in a sultry heat wave, life in the Land of Ooze slows to a breathless yawn.  Stillness predominates as day blurs into night and night stretches back again into day.

All life becomes defined by old faithful Geoffrey — a long nap in a cool spot on a hot afternoon.  Clearly, the dog days of summer have arrived.

Even once-hearty researchers melt into canoes after but a few hours of futile paddling in search of the elusive terrapin.

And everything slows to a crawl.  Everything, that is, with the sole impossible exception of my cold-blooded brethren, the turtles.  They thrive in these conditions, impelled to do the implausible and to do it quite well, thank you.


Just last Monday I had to pull over a 19-year-old female box turtle for zipping along Bayberry Lane in a “Slow Children” zone.  Heck, at her speed, she could have caused major problems if a poor child got in her slip stream . . . or stumbled over her carapace.

And the terrapins — well, they’ve been swifter than bottled lightning.  In these conditions, netting a turtle becomes pure serendipity as they swim through the deep creeks and deeper channels at maximum alertness.  But luckily for us, a 9-year-old male terrapin decided to surface directly in front of our lead canoe as we rounded Shirt Tail Point, heading into Duck Creek.

Measuring 11 centimeters and weighing 212 grams, Terrapin 1186 still proved quite a handful.  Placed on the floor of the canoe, he hit the ground running — literally, sprinting from bow to stern in seconds, overturning everything between him and the wall ahead.  “My God, what’s got into him?” asked Chris Burns, our high school intern extraordinaire.  Answer: the heat.  We decided the better part of valor was to beach the canoe and process #186 immediately — lest he discover how to capsize the boat or bore through its hull.