Thursday, March 11, 2010

Turtle Questions 101..answered, I hope

Turtles will find a way out of an enclosure even if it is smaller than they are because they are tenacious. They will keep working on a problem until they either get it done or they come back to it another time. We have even put sweeps on the bottom of every gate and door that leads out of the yard so that the adults, but most especially the babies can't get out.

Keep in mind that baby turtles are about the size of a quarter when they hatch out of their shells. They too will turn sideways to escape captivity and also can climb so putting toppers on blockades is a good idea too.

Turtles can climb. So if you think an enclosure of say 18" high is going to hold them in, you are wrong. If they can wedge themselves say in a corner and climb, hold, climb, hold, like in rock climbing, they will get out. I have one male who doesn't go up the turtle incline (turtle highway) at either end of the yard that we have constructed, he just climbs the steps. Gets in the corner and works for an hour to make it happen. Funny critter, used to live under the trash can at the old house, so we call him Pig. He's my very best stud er U haul trailer driver.

Turtles get sick from other turtles, dogs, humans. A strep germ is the culprit. The symptons are swollen eyes, sometimes sealed shut like when you get pink eye, eye caps, which is the mucus layer forming on the eye, swollen ears. What? turtles have ears? Yeah the circlular formation behind their eyes on the sides of their heads. They have no external ear but the membrane is very thin. And they can actually have drainage from their noses. Poor babies, they usually don't survive it. I have had only a few that have. Injections of antibiotics (now that's a fun thing to try to do), extra Vitamin A, B and D and drainage of the septic areas. Ewwwwww. I've gotten pretty good at that too. People have brought me their sickies in the past. I don't do that anymore because I guess as I have gotten older, it is harder to see them suffer and die.

Marlene let your daughter know she is gonna make the turtle sick or worse yet herself. Besides it hurts when they bite you and won't let go.

So don't let anyone with a cold handle your turtle, and wash your hands every time you touch a turtle. My grands think I'm nuts making them go inside and wash their hands but an awful case of salmonella one time cured me of thinking I could take short cuts when dealing with my turtles. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

Turtles need attention in captivity. You can't just assume that the bug population is adequate opportunity for them to eat. You have to supplement their diet. A good thing is to use powdered vitamins for turtles on the food you put out for them. 

Turtles do not eat the same food. Some of my turtles eat just meat, whether bug or beef or chicken or turkey. Do Not ever feed turtles pork or cheese, something in those products will kill the good bacteria in their guts and they die. Some turtles just eat produce. Now, this changes with the time of year for the adults. They kinda know what they need. You just have to make it available and hope for the best. But all babies just eat meat...albeit baby food or fine ground meat or small bugs (gets their killer instinct up and running). When they are about a yearling they will eat fruit. I have no idea why this is, it just is. An injured baby will probably not make it, so be careful where you walk, mow and play.

Provide a source of water that they can get out of easily. My grands have built muddy holes for the backyardigans. I also have shallow bowls and sunk them in the ground and made a lip of hard packed dirt around them so they can walk out. Change the water daily cuz they are nasty and some will only poop in water. They love sprinklers. Funny how they will stretch out with shells on the ground, feet out and put their heads down into the grass and just drink forever. Like camels, stocking up.

Turtles are not indoor pets. Honest. They need far too much sunshine to process their food, keep warm enough and grow. I have tried over wintering sick ones and tried to keep them in the sun but Mother Nature is the only knowledgeable one about the sun, it is not bright enough for the turtles in the winter....so that is why they go into stasis. I have seen and known folks who have been successful at keeping say Russian box turtles alive in terrariums for a few years but they can't replicate what a turtle needs. Long life, sunshine and bugs. They are after all wild animals. We humans just keep getting in the way. So if you are gonna be in the way.....do the best you can. Arm yourself with knowledge and dedication to being a nature lover, not a nature keeper.

When turtles go into their winter burrows they keep moving all the time so they really don't hibernate but are in a state of stasis. Moving and drinking the water that finds it's way into the burrow. So those holes are round and hollow. Hidey holes are slanted and just barely under the ground level. Every turtle has at least 2 hidey holes. They usually return to the same area to winter and the funny thing is there are several together. Babies go back to where their nest was to hibernate, so it can be a mix of new babies, old babies and adults. It is facinating, at least this old broad thinks so.

It is illegal to gather turtles in the wild in 27 states. And unfortunately pet stores are not a good place to purchase them. By the time you get one from a pet store, they probably have not had enough sunshine to be healthy anymore. Some things to look for....if they feel too light for their size, are lethargic, have any drainage from any orafice including their sweet little bottoms, have any swelling, have an open wound or their toenails are really long. It is the pits to get a turtle only to have it die. Don't help people who have unlawfully gathered wild turtles by purchasing them. The humans will only go back and destroy more habitat. Get a turtle from someone's back yard. In addition to my give aways 3 years ago, I have passed probably 50 more to good homes. Ya can't keep um all once they get good at U-hauling.

I have enjoyed sharing my turtle passion with you. If ever you do have a question, please ask me, if I don't know the answer, I will put you in touch with some one who can answer it.

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