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Living up to our name
Turtle sightings are off the charts
Earlier this week three box turtles (shown above) were discovered on a path that traverses the Savanna, each less than 20 feet from the next. They were on the move, probably looking for potential mates. We could only guess what had transpired before we arrived. Perhaps there had been successful pairings or maybe they were unaware of each other's presence. Regardless, it was exciting to see three turtles at once. We usually encounter them singly, the exception being last year when we observed a mating couple in one of the vernal pools.
Yesterday brought another exciting event: a female was observed preparing to lay eggs a short distance from where the trio was spotted. At first I assumed it was one of the same turtles, but decided otherwise when I examined the markings on its shell just above the head.
Luckily the pictures I had taken clearly showed this area on each turtle, as illustrated in the photo below.
Clockwise from upper left, I've named these individuals Batwing, Middle Finger, Lion Head, and 4-S. While not fool-proof, this identification method is far superior to painting shells with fingernail polish which can result in pain and injury to the animal. The hope is that by learning to recognize individuals I can get a sense of how many turtles live on the property and what their habits are.
Eastern box turtles typically roam an area approximately 250 yards in diameter. According to the Smithsonian's National Zoo website, these home ranges often overlap and it's common to observe turtles existing amicably in close proximity. Judging from what we've seen this week, the Savanna offers inviting habitat for Terrepene carolina carolina.
These amazing animals are often active after rain. If the forecasts are correct, we may have more opportunities for observation. I'll keep you posted.