Back on October 13, I accepted an invitation from the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society to show carnivorous plants at its first annual Reptile & Amphibian Day. The photos continue, starting with the one reptile most herpetophobes can tolerate. Yes, it’s time for turtles.
As far as local turtles and tortoises are concerned, the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is about as large as we get. To see a truly exceptional specimen, make plans to visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park Dallas to see one the size of an 18-wheeler tire. This Aldabra tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea was about as large in life, but nowhere near as snuggly.
And then we come to the stalwarts. The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) doesn’t make it this far west, more’s the pity. One of the first turtles I ever kept was a beautiful male Eastern rescued while attempting to cross a highway in northern Michigan, and if you’re able to get out to the Fenner Nature Center in Lansing, you can still see him. One of these days, I need to head up that way to visit: I know perfectly well that the turtle won’t remember me, or recognize me, but I know I’ll recognize him.
Texas, though, isn’t lacking in box turtles, and these two are native to my immediate area. On the left is a classic example of a three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis), and on the right is an ornate or Western box turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata). Both are steadfastly terrestrial turtles, although they both like the occasional soak, but the ornate box turtles are generally found more in cattle fields and plains, while the three-toes tend to stick to scrub and forested areas. Either way, I’d recommend them as pets, but I heartily recommend working with captive-bred turtles, as they’re rapidly disappearing in the wild thanks to fire ant depredations of their nests and habitat destruction.
A few friends may remember “Stella,” the three-toed box turtle I rescued in the late Nineties. Stella became best-known for falling madly in love with Leiber, and she’d chase him all over the house, desperately trying to get him to notice her. What’s funny is that she actively tried to attack humans, earning her the nickname “The World’s Meanest Box Turtle,” and I joked that this was a turtle so hostile that she had zimmerit on her shell. She looked harmless but tried to wipe out all mankind: by comparison, ornate box turtles all look vicious, but they’re almost always sweethearts. Go figure.
Finally, we have the height of herpetological cuteness: box turtle hatchlings. Well, they’re almost as cute as crocodile monitors, but you can’t convince the Czarina of this. And so it goes.
And there’s more to follow…