You know, how when you walk into your living room, kitchen, or sit down at your desk and you notice that something’s changed, out of place, or missing, or maybe that there’s something there that wasn’t there before? Perhaps it’s just the obssessive-compulsive in me, but as I walked down the path leading from Catch the Wind to Explore the Wild I noticed something different about one of the boulders that line the path there.
I pass these boulders many times during the course of an average day here at the Museum. I know them well. So, when I noticed a small bump on one of those 200 million year old boulders that wasn’t there on my last pass through this narrow passage over the swampy woods leading to the Wetlands, I stopped and had a closer look. It was a turtle, a small turtle, a musk turtle.
Musk turtles spend most of their time in the water. They don’t bask as often as the sliders (champions among baskers) or even the snapping turtles, at least I don’t see them basking as often as I see the others. When they do bask, they tend to perch a bit higher than most other turtles, as much a six feet above the water. This musk turtle was carrying the tendency for high-altitude basking, for a turtle, to an extreme. The nearest water was thirty feet below this stinkpot.
I doubt though, that this turtle was basking. I don’t know why it had climbed onto this boulder, or even if it did climb onto the boulder. I suspect that the turtle was on the move, either departing or just arriving at the Museum. I also suspect that someone had recently passed by this location, saw the turtle crossing the path and placed it on the boulder for, well, the fun of it. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the little musk turtle climbed the rock to get to get a better look at the terrain, a higher vantage point in which to survey its surroundings.
Whatever the reason for the turtle being on the boulder I now know more about this little stinkpot. I know that it measures 9.8 cm from front of the carapace to the rear, or just under four inches, and it bears a “V” shaped mark on its first marginal scute on the right side of its shell (placed there by me). It was first seen at about 11:15 AM, the sky was partly cloudy, temperature 72F/22.2C, and the barometric pressure was 30.19 and holding steady. The turtle is registered as #EM00-01 in my log book of turtles captured and marked this year here at the Museum. If we see this turtle again we’ll know who it is, we’ve got its number.
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!