Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phenology: Turtle Squashers

Jonathon Seidl reports on the surprising results of a university study: Some drivers actually go out of their way to run over box turtles (terrapins) they see on the road.

First, let's say that I love the idea of retraining these jerks by planting artificial turtles full of spikes on our highways. It would be good for the economy, allowing some entrepreneur to make money on the turtles and many existing businesses to make money replacing and recycling jerks' tires. Plus, it would liberate money from jerks.

Unfortunately, living box turtles would still be vulnerable to genuine accidents. We already have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...what more can be done toward helping humans appreciate turtles?

Seriously, Gentle turtles are useful animals (except when they get into fishponds or vegetable gardens--but even there, they're easy to move and unlikely to come back). They eat insects. They help control mosquitoes! And the way they shut themselves up into "boxes" is cool.

Box turtles have few natural predators, although raccoons, large hawks and eagles, and occasionally some other predator who is very hungry will eat them. They're not good to eat (they can eat things that are toxic to other animals and store the toxins in their bodies), and only jerks go out of their way to kill anything they don't want to eat. Perhaps because they live about as long as humans do, they don't reproduce much faster than humans do, either. In fact, because turtle eggs and young are exposed to more hazards, turtles don't actually reproduce as fast as humans do. They're a threatened species.

Here's the web site that goes with Tess Cook's book, Box Turtles:

Here's the box turtle's Wikipedia page:

Here's another academic site that offers lots of photos and fun facts about box turtles:

Being cold-blooded, box turtles aren't very active in my part of the world in winter, but so far we're having the sort of mild winter in which a box turtle might come out and prowl around. In the Deep South, they're active all year.