Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Wood Turtle

It is not often that you happen upon a wood turtle in the wild. They are secretive and live among wetland shrubs along rivers, habitats that are difficult to penetrate. Which is perhaps good for the wood turtle. It is one of several species favored by the pet trade, and some are still collected illegally. So, the more it can hide from humans the better.

On Saturday a group of us were inventorying a property as part of a Biothon (noting all the plants and animals observed) and one of the team members found a wood turtle. He brought it out for all of us to see. After we'd admired the handsome male wood turtle he took it back to the same spot where he found it.

My camera is on the blink and the iPhone camera did not do it justice. But my friend Scott Young, a fabulous photography, got some great shots. See his series of photos here. This was a large, handsome, male turtle. Often turtles pull into their shell when held. This wood turtle stuck his head and legs way out, showing off his gorgeous orange legs and striking head. The top shell (carapace) was highly sculpted, a feature that is acknowledged in the wood turtle's species name, "insculpta."

Team member Kim estimated his age at 20 years. That is a long time to avoid roads, collectors, and predators in the highly fragmented landscape of southeastern New Hampshire. To help ensure that this turtle lives at least another 20 years I will remain vague about the exact location of our turtle sighting. Needless to say it was the highlight of our morning.

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