Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Happy to Find a Wood Turtle

I've lived in rural upstate New York since 1973 and typically spend some time outdoors every day. I've seen plenty of painted turtles and snapping turtles but never a wood turtle. I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, about 150 miles south of here, and spent thousands of hours with my brother hunting and documenting snakes and turtles. Wood turtles were the most common reptile we came across there, especially in spring when they congregate in streams looking for mates.

This past weekend my wife spotted a wood turtle walking down the road in front of our home. Spending time on pavement is not safe for any animal so I relocated him to the most remote pond edge near here, far from roads and fields that get periodic tractor visits. 
Mature Wood Turtle with a Stub Left Front Leg
Front View: Wood Turtle
Wood Turtle Bottom View Showing Plastron and Two Stub Front Legs
This fellow sported two front leg stumps where some animal, long ago, chewed off his paws. They healed well and he's able to get around pushing hard with his fully intact rear legs. Judging from the rings on his scutes, the shield-shaped patterns on his shell, he's at least 20 years old. His plastron, the bottom part of a turtle shell - opposite the carapacewas concave indicating he is a male since females need more space to hold eggs inside, requiring a convex plastron.

Box turtles were the second most common land turtle in eastern Pennsylvania and I've never seen one of these here either. They were my favorite because they can close up tightly and protect both sets of legs. I also had one for a pet that I hand fed and she followed me around our yard for years. Now I am hoping to find a box turtle!