Thursday, June 1, 2017

Turtle in the Garden

Something has been digging in the garden...
Just holes in the wood mulch here and there, and some spots where the hay and straw mulch on the sides of the raised beds has been pulled away.
One morning I discovered the hay mulch messed up over an entire 30-foot bed, with areas of disturbed soil

I wanted to blame the rabbits. And I did.

Until I found the lady pictured above sitting cozily inside the three-ring "tomato" cage set up to support a pepper plant. She just shoved pepper plant over (it was easily righted later, so no harm) and plopped her round hiney into the soil. Presumably she laid eggs, or at least tried.

Then I remembered the same kind of mysterious digging in the garden last year that coincided with the appearance of an ornate box turtle laying eggs... probably this very same box turtle, of the subspecies Terrapene ornata ornata, which prefers grasslands. Another subspecies of ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata luteola, prefers more arid habitats.

I don't know that any of her eggs hatched last year. At least one of the nests she planted in the garden got dug up by something with a taste for turtle eggs. That predation and the fact that they produce few eggs at a time means the ornate box turtle has a very low reproduction rate. I hope she has better fortune this time. I will be anxious to see whether any quarter-size turtles appear in about two months. How to protect the babies from hungry critters, I don't know.

My box turtle neighbor would love snacking on these strawberries, if they were
not inside a fence intended to prevent rabbits, deer and opossums from eating
them. The turtle must then be satisfied with eating bugs, worms, carrion, and
wild berries and other vegetation.
Box turtles are unique in the turtle world in that they live their lives on land, not in water. Doesn't that make them tortoises? Apparently not, according to the people who classify things. It has something to do with the shape of their feet and other body parts, I gather. Anyway, once this lady is done laying eggs, the mysterious digging will cease. The bed she dug up has been put back into order. None of the seedlings that had already sprouted were disturbed and where no seedlings had emerged I replanted. No harm done.

I won't hold a grudge against her and I'm glad it wasn't the rabbits doing the digging. I really don't want to put up any more chicken wire fences. I've already got the strawberries permanently surrounded, and temporary fences around the peas, beans and sweet potatoes.

Surely, that's enough.

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