13 April 2010

Latest Finds - Box Turtles Hortense and Helga

My youngest dog Massimo, 8.5 months and maturing, loves to play with clods of dirt. He crouches and barks at the menacing clumps. Hops forward, picks up the bit, and throws it into the air. His game can stretch for hours.

Unfortunately, turtles resemble clods of dirt. I can't decide if Massimo thinks they are the same thing as his bits of dirt, or if he knows they are animals and therefore fair game (in his mind). The fact that he plays the same with the two is both humorous and horrifying. Especially for the turtle. I bet there's some "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" language playing out in the turtles head as she flys through the air with an ease which should NEVER happen to turtles.

Regardless, Hortense and Helga here have been living in my backyard for a time. Helga for several weeks, Hortense unknown.

How do I know they are girls? I don't, I'm guessing. Some male turtles have a concavity on their abdominal shell, these two don't (then again, Boxes might not, so) and when Helga was first caught I was able to see a bit of her tail region. Females have much larger openings for egg laying purposes. Helga seems to be an egg layer. Hortense is a pure guess.

How do I know they have been here? I can scarcely see them for their camouflage, but Massimo can smell them. He has pulled Helga (the younger box) out of the pine needles at least three times. Our negative conditioning does not seem to be working.

A close up the photo reveals his recent retrieval and the damage he performed upon Helga's shell. I hope she is healing quickly.

The story goes like this ... Massimo found the turtle, AGAIN, for the third time, and I decide that this is the perfect time to mow the yard. I can put the turtle into a crate while I mow and release her back to the yard when I am finished. I have been unable (unwilling) to mow since I knew she was somewhere in the backyard, and I knew I'd be mowing wild parts of the yard that haven't seen a mower in several years.

Strangely enough, Miss Turtle has taken a bunch of shell damage to the outer sides since I last saw her. And while shell peeling isn't unheard of, it is unexpected for a box.

Into the crate Miss Turtle goes, and off to mow I go (after the SO ... cleans lawnmower ... changes the oil ... and does some engineering communing with the power tool ...). Off into the wilds I trek, racing into greenbriar patches several feet wide. This mower is my greenbriar, old tree, and shrub ramming device.

After I finish with the worst of the patches and whack down some of my geraniums (they are larger than ever this year) I head back to the briar patch with a pair of clippers. The dogs can get around back there, it is time I could as well.

About that time the hounds are released and reacquaint themselves with the "new" yard. There is the smell of cut herbaceous growth, new pathways to explore, and rearranged bits to bark at.

Which is when the spouse tracks me down and says, "Massimo found another turtle."

"What! Another one? Where is it?"

"In the crate with the first one ..."

Low and behold the larger and older of the two, Hortense, found first this weekend is a new turtle to us. No wonder her shell looked funny. I didn't recognize it.

Helga, of course, is the turtle that Massimo has been finding, and since we weren't expecting two turtles in the yard, he had the chance to damage her (sorry Helga). I'm glad I didn't catch you with the lawnmower!

Helga has a much better shell but is also younger by at least a year, if not two. My turtle aging's not accurate.

I've returned the girls to the wilds of the backyard, and am even more vigilant with the MonsterMo. A hunting dog is a wonderful thing, their brains are amazing. However, they are also stubborn. I WILL win in the end, and Massimo will learn to ignore turtles.

Check back with me next year.

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