As I walked up to the Lemur House on a very busy Wednesday afternoon, I noticed several people looking down at the ground just off the entrance path. All involved were smiling, with looks of wonder and amazement on their faces.
I knew that a female Yellow-bellied Slider had laid eggs very close to where everyone’s attention was focused. I rushed over to see if my hunch was correct. Sure enough, there in the pine needles that were spread across the grass was a tiny slider making its way towards the water of the wetlands.
The hole the turtle emerged from was clearly visible two feet away. I looked down into the hole and could just make out one more turtle. I tried unsuccessfully to get a photo of the turtle inside the hole and finally removed some of the dirt around the hole to get a clear view. Dozens of Museum Guests got great looks at the turtle as it peered out from the hole.
There were at least two, possibly three turtles in the hole.
The human traffic was very heavy on that Wednesday afternoon. I feared for the turtles’ safety as they made their way to the Wetlands. Our adventurous leader, the first turtle out of the hole, had almost been stepped on twice. I picked up the little slider and placed it in a container that I carry around for situations such as this.
I decided that it would be wise to remove the turtles from the hole and transport them to the Wetlands myself. And so I did. I cleared away more dirt from the entrance hole, picked out the turtles with a pair of tweezers and placed them in a container. There were four.
As I made my way down to the water to release the turtles I stopped a family that happpened to be passing by and asked if they’d like to let the turtles go, to release them into the Wetlands. Only too happy to do so, I first took a few photos and off they went. One by one each turtle was gently placed into the water.
Oh, one more thing, the mother turtle. She was first spotted by last summer’s Animal Behavior Summer Campers at approximately 10:30 AM on 19 July. She was unmarked at the time of nesting. After she completed her egg laying duties she was marked, measured, and released. Her number is #00-63 and she is 9 – 5/8″ (24.5 cm) from stem to stern.
Every year that I’ve been here at the Museum (6+), I or some else has seen young turtles in this area (near the Lemur House) headed down the path towards the Wetlands. Is this the same turtle using the same site each year, or are there also other turtles laying their eggs at the Lemur House? With this turtle being marked and now easily identifiable, we’re one step closer to finding out.
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!