Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Coming across the Florida Box Turtle, Terrapene Carolina bauri, which resides along the edges of the uplands and wet areas, is a magical experience for me. The Native Americans believe that earth was created by a turtle and that the world rests on her back. The Florida Box Turtle carries her “home” with her and with the aid of a hinged plastron can defend herself against predators by closing her shell. The shell can even regenerate if damaged. Unfortunately, they can’t defend themselves against the loss of their habitat or the increasing fragmentation of their remaining home ranges. Each turtle’s range extends out 750 ft in diameter and if that area is in a subdivision then roads and machinery are their obstacles.
I was fortunate enough to spot this omnivore, as it walked across the grass and nabbed a beetle. The recent rains added to the vibrant yellow stripes on the black domed shell, showcasing a vibrant design of lines and dashes with a raised yellow stripe down the length of the carapace. There seemed to be a hidden message there in a language I couldn’t read, a sort of hieroglyphics. This particular one was a female. The plastron was convex in contrast to the male with a concave plastron and the iris was yellow brown while a male’s is red. They are easy to spot now, either feeding or soaking in the water and hopefully, I will get to witness some egg laying.
Sadly, Florida Herp law allows for these turtles to be collected without a permit. The law states that you may have up to two turtles and two eggs in your possession at any one time. However, you do need a permit if you intend to sell them. I recently read that they bond with the place of their birth and when captured, become stressed and succumb to disease. I hope that others will see that this unique creature needs to stay in the wild and that we need to think carefully about our wildlife corridors if we want them to be around. Perhaps that is the message hidden on their backs.