On Turtles: Chica Challenge #2

No rest for the weary over here.

In the past three weeks or so we have gone from dreaming about a new house to putting our house on the market. Today!  Ah!  So I went straight from packing up my school stuff to packing up things here at home to move to storage.  Thanks to the help of our moms, two great friends, and their kids, our house is looking better than it has ever looked.  Bring on the buyers.

House 01 Irvington 09

I’m exhausted….and I know that we are just getting started.  So while I should be folding laundry or straightening cabinets or clearing out that one room that just never got finished, I’m sitting here instead.  Chica is sleeping, Bubba and Jay are watching TV (aka snoozing, probably), and I’m drinking wine, eating too much chocolate, and planning to write about yesterday’s adventures.  I earned the break, right?

By 8:00 a.m. we were out the door headed to Peaks View Park.  We took a short detour to check out the baby birds at Nana’s house because she warned they weren’t fitting in their nest much longer.  You’ll be fascinated to know (maybe) that Mama Bird is still taking care of business, quite literally.  While we were there, we saw one bird take what appeared to be his first trip away from the nest.  So cool!  Nana called us later to say that all four birds had abandoned ship by lunch time.  I guess we came just in time!

After Nana refueled us with goldfish crackers and chex mix, we headed out again to the park.  Let me just say that the overabundance of construction and closed roads in the Hill City does not help a directionally challenged girl like me.  Ugh.  So we ended up parking way far away from the playground, not by choice.  This, however, did make for a nice walk to kill some time and wear out little bodies.


On our walk, a maintenance man we passed handed us a box turtle.  Of course my budding naturalist wasn’t content to just observe and then leave the turtle, so she carted him the rest of the way to the playground.  Chica had two new, instant best friends (’cause who doesn’t love a girl with a turtle?), and they crowded around to wait for their new pet to come out of his shell.  After many reminders that yelling and tapping the shell aren’t the best ways to make a turtle feel safe, he finally emerged.  Within seconds of eyeing the crazy kids waiting for him on the outside, that sucker spotted a hiding spot, the mulch under a playground stair, and he was off.  Can you blame him?

As you can imagine, the questions were flying.  So, for those of you up for day 2 of the Chica Challenge, read the following, make your best guesses, then compare your answers to the best that YouTube has to offer (summarized below).

1. How do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
2. How old is it?
3. What does it eat?
4. Can we take it home as a pet?

IMG_01411.  Chica actually had this one right because of what she had learned from the fine folks at the Nature Zone, but neither of us were 100% sure of her answer.  Turns out that box turtles are the only known turtle species to have different color eyes according to gender.  Our turtle had red eyes, so we knew it was a boy.  Female turtles have dark eyes.  There are other ways to tell, like the shape of the underside of the shell, but the eyes seem to be the most obvious clue.

2.  Much like a tree, you can approximate the age of a turtle by counting the layers on a ring of its shell.  Chica had also heard about this from the Nature Zone, but she mistakenly counted how many different yellow spots he had instead of how many rings in one yellow spot.  I’m no turtle expert like Chica, but I’d say this guy is at least 8 or 9.

IMG_01403.  Chica and her new best friends really wanted the turtle to eat grass.  But despite their persistence, he just didn’t want any.  Turns out that box turtles are pretty much carnivorous and would prefer worms over leafy greens.  The interesting thing that we learned here is that a box turtle’s diet is a common misconception among people who take them home for pets.  They can slowly learn to be more omnivorous when in captivity, but this   causes problems when they are rereleased into the wild.  More on turtles in captivity next.

IMG_01474.  So though I listed this question last, this was of course her very first question.  I don’t do animals.  I mean, I love watching them in the wild, but I am so over having to remember to feed one more mouth that can’t remind me that it needs to eat.  And don’t get me started on the cleaning up part.  So I thought of lots of reasons why it was a bad idea….we don’t know what to feed it, we don’t have anything with which to carry it in the car, and most especially, where the heck are we going to put a turtle while we try to show our house?  But then one tiny part of me remembers my mom letting us keep baby turtles that we found in our neighborhood lake and how much fun we had.  So I was noncommittal and told her I’d decide when we got back to the car.  Thankfully, she decided about halfway back that she was tired of carrying his squirmy self, and she said goodbye next to the baseball field with a tear or two.  Phew.

Turns out the turtle documentary we watched supports my anti-wild-animals-at-home stance.  Box turtles are becoming an endangered species for several reasons:  habitat loss, being hit by cars, and–get this–unprepared people taking them home to keep as pets!  When they are kept in captivity, they can lose their ability to hunt, they can’t reproduce, and they can contract diseases that transmit to other turtles if taken back into the wild.  What good news for this momma.  Not such good news for the turtle protectors in the video we watched, but at least I’m helping them get their message out.  You’re welcome.

So….how’d you do on this edition of Chica’s Challenge?  If by some chance you got them all right (or even if not), then I present to you the Bonus Question…an actual question posed by Chica on our evening walk:

Is the love of your shadow the root of all evilness?

Yeah…answer that one.