Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Sept. 16, 2005)
Back in turtle time A dinosaur visited my garden today. He hid under
the begonia leaves while enjoying the cool, damp ground near the water garden. He
was a crusty old fellow with a bit of an attitude, but considering hes from a
family that has been on this earth for more than 60 million years, we gave him his
place of honor without disturbance.
I assumed since the lake is at least a couple of hundred feet away and only
accessible over a concrete wall that this old fellow was a land turtle/tortoise. We
laid out the photos and compared them to our Florida guide books, but this turtle
was nowhere to be found. After several e-mails and a couple of phone calls to our
local, most informative, Pinellas County Extension office we were surprised that
our visitor was the red-eared slider turtle.
|Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
|An elderly red-eared slider
takes time out from the summer sun, seeking the cool shade of the
The red-eared slider is a beautiful small green, fresh water turtle with reddish
stripes behind their eyes, commonly sold in pet stores. Our visitor was very dark
with little color and his markings were well worn. He was probably once a pet that
someone grew tired of then was released into the wild to fend for himself.
Turtle pet trade sites offer these recommendations:
Turtles are not good pets for young children. They can bite and in some cases can
cause salmonella poisoning. Turtles are meant as pets for responsible adults.
Red-eared sliders are found throughout the United States east of the Rockies, but
are not native to Florida.
Turtles, like parrots, live a long time. If youre considering a turtle as a
pet take into account: A well cared for turtle may have an average life expectancy
of about 30 years, for example the red-eared slider. Before you purchase a turtle
ask yourself if you have the resources and time to care for this animal long term.
If you are still considering purchasing a turtle heres some advice from Shell
Shock on the reality of keeping turtles as pets:
1. If not taken care of properly, turtles stink.
2. Turtles have a habit of eating their own stool. This behavior seems disgusting,
but is quite natural for turtles.
3. Turtles shed skin ... and lots of it. They also shed scales off their shells.
This loose skin and scales has a habit of clogging up your filter. Be prepared to
clean your filter at least once a week, maybe even twice, depending on water
4. Turtles are messy eaters. If you feed them live food be prepared for the
occasional body part floating around.
5. They bite and it hurts. Larger turtles can break skin. Remember to be careful
when handling your turtles and be especially careful if someone unfamiliar with
turtles is caring or handling them.
The red-eared slider is a semi-aquatic turtle (terrapin) that naturally resides in
areas with a calm, fresh and warm water source; ponds, lakes, marshes, creeks and
streams. Turtles being reptiles have a relatively waterproof skin composed of
scales, which retains most of their body moisture. Because of these
characteristics, reptiles have been able to survive in harsh conditions for
millions of years. They are present day dinosaurs.
Red-eared sliders are avid swimmers, feeding only in water, and are religious
baskers. All of the sliders are omnivores, eating both animal protein and
vegetable/plant matter. Red-eared sliders are deceptively fast and excellent
swimmers. Wild red-eared slider females stay close to a water source unless she is
in search of a new source or has a need to nest and lay eggs.
When the males are between 2 to 4 years old they are sexually mature. Females
reach maturity later, between 5 to 7 years, and will then be over 5 inches (12.7
cm) in length; in captivity, females may reach maturity at about 3.5 years.
Their natural habitat is usually quiet with a basking area, such as a large flat
rock or a log, receiving a good deal of sunlight.
Turtles are elusive creatures that most of us know little about and yet they have
a way of capturing our imaginations.
Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles, dating back to the time of the
earliest dinosaurs. Turtles represent the relics of our past, the barometers of our
future, the principles of our present and respect for back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.