In the Garden, Three Stripes and You’re Out

The second turtle found

The second turtle found…come out, come out, wherever you are!

The other evening, Chili, the Irish setter a.k.a. the great reptile hunter sounded the warning and I headed out to round her up.  She was barking non-stop along the edge of the fence, which could mean rabbit, but given the area, a snake or turtle was more likely.

I trotted her off to the house and didn’t give it a second thought.  Two of the other dogs were already inside.  About an hour later or so, I called for Tanner, the English setter to come join us, as it was starting to turn dark.  No response!  I called again, giving him the treat signal and still no dog.

Well looky here, Tanner has himself a mud turtle

Well looky here, Tanner has himself a mud turtle

I put on my garden shoes and headed out to track down my boy, who often will just be staring into the backyard with visions of rabbits on his mind.  This time, though, he had something that seemed wonderful to gnaw on.  “Ok, boy, you found a good stick?”  On closer inspection, I realized that he had a mud turtle in his clutches.  A quick command to “spit” and out popped the turtle and Tanner somewhat unwillingly headed into the house with me.  Ahhh, mystery solved as to what Chili had spotted earlier.

Good, no damage to the bottom, so he should be fine despite being shook up my a dog

Good, no damage to the bottom, so he should be fine despite being shook up by a dog

I returned to the scene of the crime and picked up the mud turtle to examine for damage.  He had some gnaw marks on the upper shell, but seemed no worse for the wear.  The bottom was fine and the chipped part of the shell was an old injury…worn down and still caked in mud.  I gently took my new friend and placed him in the dog-free area…the pollinator garden section under some nice vines.  From here he could easily find the back pond or stay in the coolness of this soft dirt area.  I checked about an hour later and he was gone, so Tanner didn’t do any lasting damage.

Hey, there's another....smaller one

Hey, there’s another….smaller one

The next day when I released the troops, I decided that I better go check the area next to the fence.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a turtle returned to the dog area after I moved it to safety.  I looked down and spotted a smaller turtle, with less of a mud covering.  On this one three light stripes were evident, so I knew we had some Striped Mud Turtles (Kinosternon bauri).

This one isn't so muddy

This one isn’t so muddy

These turtles are aquatic, but spend a considerable amount of time on land.  Small in stature, they rarely reach more than 4-5 inches long.  The one that Tanner found was very encrusted with mud and given that the stripes weren’t apparent is likely an older member of the species, which normally have their stripes fade.

I’m not sure of the sex of my newfound friends since that is distinguished by the length and thickness of their tails and neither one was wagging it at me.  Males are said to be smaller and some consider this species “drab and undistinguished”.  Rather judgmental, if you ask me.  I prefer to think of them as “smart to blend in”.

This small turtle was VERY strong. As soon as I got close to setting it down in the brush, it already had the claws out to start running

This small turtle was VERY strong. As soon as I got close to setting it down in the brush, it already had the claws out to start running

Diet is said to include cabbage palm fruit (Sabal palmetto) and juniper leaves. They also eat algae, snails, insects, and dead fish. Seems they also have been known to check out what’s cooking in the cow dung [gag].

The initial area they were found in is right next to the saw palmettos (Serenoa repens) and since I don’t have any cabbage palms that are fruiting, maybe they expand their fruit intake to this similar palm species since there are considerable amounts of dried seeds scattered on the ground below.  This is also a slightly muddy area where storm water heads off into the culvert.  My lot also has lots of snails and plenty of insects to choose from.

The stripes on this guy (or gal) are quite noticable, so perhaps a younger member.

The characteristic three stripes on this guy (or gal) are quite noticable, so perhaps a younger member.

So, we can add mud turtle to our list of turtle species visitors, which includes Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri), Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis) and Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox). I wonder who’ll be next.

© 2014, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Join the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community

Comments

  1. says

    Loret! Fascinating to meet your turtle friends! I don’t think I’ve ever seen mud turtles before. It will be a while yet before I get to see any of *my* turtle friends. As I pulled into my garage after Spanish class this evening (7PM) it was 22º. It will take a big amount of warming up before I see any.

    Thanks for another glimpse into your world of nature!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current day month ye@r *

CommentLuv badge