Saturday, November 3, 2007

dry box

This post has to back up a couple of weeks to be timely, but I have been too busy to keep updated and thought maybe it was worth telling.
Before we finally got a rain, things had gotten so dry that the woods was black dust underfoot, the mosses where dried up and the understory leaves hung like drying tobacco on the stick. On a walk, we found a box turtle in the middle of the ridge lane. I lay down on my belly to video tape him and through the lense I noticed that something didn't look quite right. In an irritated manner, he was using his front claw to bat ants away from crawling across his face.
My companion said...does turtle skin always look so "papery"?
No, it is normally very shiny-leathery looking. Suddenly I put away the lense and realized that this box turtle was dehydrated and weakened. His eyes were sunken into his face, his color was drab and his skin was indeed, very dry and dull and lifeless.
Now, I am of the belief that you should pretty much leave things where they lie, as over my lifetime, many of my well meaning rescue attempts have gone terribly awry. Usually because of complexities of nature that I didn't factor in at the time.
But thinking about this turtle's predicament made me reconsider my policy.
Normally, this ridge is flanked by two creeks that run most of the year, and usually the hills have seepy places that although they dwindle to a drip in late summer, always have at least that going on. This year, the creeks have been bone dry for months, there are no damp logs or leaf piles, no seepy places to visit, not a drop of moisture anywhere but the one bushel basket sized hole in the creek below the culvert.
We picked him up and carried him with us on the rest of our walk and then down to the culvert hole. When we set him in the edge of the water, he basked for a minute seeming to soak up the moisture gratefully while the ants plaguing his neck folds abandoned ship. Then he swam (jubilantly, it seemed) around the hole a few times, as if to stretch his limbs and suddenly crawled out on the other side up the bank and into a perfect little mud cave in the shade, just his size.


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