Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Honey, About That Tub Of Dirt On The Porch...
Caught in the act...
I found this "slider" ( they bask on logs, they slide off when you approach) laying her eggs two days ago as I crept silently through the woods. I was creeping because from the porch, I had seen that evil black cat from across the street slipping into my property to hunt my songbirds. My plan was to give it a good chase so I was trying to surpise it.
Instead, I surprised this large female turtle as she was finishing her most sacred duty. I think she's a Florida Cooter, but these pond turtles all look alike to me, and well, Slider seems to work just fine. I'm sure this is the big turtle I see basking in the black willow trees at the swampy end of the pond. She's gotten used to me feeding catfish from the dock and rarely slides unless I approach.
To get to this nest site, she had traveled about 150 feet uphill (okay, only a little slope) crossed the sandy driveway, crawled beneath the boat, and out in a semi-sunny spot near a rotten log.
Unfortunately, her little turtle brain could not have picked a worse spot to lay eggs. Her nest was located about 10 feet from my trash can corral, a rectangular "box" of picket fence that hides our trash cans. It is a raccoon, possum, and evil cat magnet. All of these opportunists visit each night. These eggs were probably doomed...too many clever sniffing noses.
So, I made a command decision. There was no time for peanut anguish. I have a lot of experience with relocating turtle nests and time is of the essence. The tiny embryo will attach to the side of the egg sometime in the first 24 hours, after that turning an egg may doom the tiny turtle.
I dug up the nest.
"The nesting habits of cooters are quite unique, and evidence of failed nests can be easily found along the edges of the dikes most times of year. Females dig three nest holes, and deposit most of the eggs in the center nest, but lay one or two in each of the side (satellite) nests, perhaps for insurance. It doesn't seem to work - nests dug up by predators, probably most frequently raccoons, nearly always have all three chambers exposed." CREDIT = STETSON UNIVERSITY
The above quote describes the nest exactly. There was one main chamber with most of the eggs and two side nests with one egg each.
There were 13 kumquat sized eggs in the nest. I used the same dirt from the nest hole (something I always did in my seaturtle hatchery days) and buried them in the tub at the same depth that the she turtle had done.
The tub sits on my porch atop a table, higher than Lab browse level. I carry it out into the sun for a few hours on these days when I am off for a little gentle warming. The turtle had chosen a spot that was fairly shady, so I am not too concerned about the shady porch, even though it may affect the sex ratio of the little turtles. Generally in turtles, cool incubating conditions result in male turtles developing, while warmer temps result in more females. Even if they are all male, it beats getting eaten by the neighbor's evil cat.
Incubation time is somewhere between 60 and 100 days. The eggs were laid on Sunday, April 9,2006 so nothing should happen before June.
Mark your calendar.