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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Turtle time

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

While heading out to work the other day I had to move way over to the left hand side to avoid a giant snapping turtle making his way across the road. I couldn’t imagine what he might be doing up there on the hill, so far from the creek or any stock ponds, but I wasn’t going to bother him or try to help him on across. The traffic isn’t that heavy there, and he was almost across anyway. Plus, I really value all my fingers. 

I did, however, help a box turtle across the road on Blueberry Ridge later in the week. And I’ve moved a couple out of the road here on Devil’s Fork. 

It’s that time of year. Turtles, especially box turtles, are out and about; looking for food, or a place to lay their eggs, or just a stretch of warm asphalt to raise their body temperature before going about their day. So, when you’re driving, be on the lookout for them. Try not to hit them and, if you can do it safely and have the time, pull over and help them to safety. 

Remember that you should always move them in whatever direction they were headed before the car disturbed them – otherwise they’re likely to just turn around and cross the road again, putting themselves right back into danger. 

Also, tempting as it can be, don’t take them home with you to keep as a pet. They are wild animals, and even if you decide to let them go before fall sets in – something we used to do as kids after catching and fattening them on garden tomatoes and earthworms all summer – unless you are releasing them in the same place where you found them originally, they are going to be lost and confused. Box turtles have a fairly small home territory and according to some sources will spend their time and energy on a futile attempt to find their way back to it if taken away. Less than half in one study were able to successfully establish a new home territory. 

So, if you see a turtle, just appreciate it where it is and know that – if you’re patient and observant – you’re likely to see it in the same area again in the future. 

Speaking of observation, I went out several times after midnight, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, hoping to catch some of the meteor shower. Though it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as the promised “meteor storm” I did catch sight of a few, including one spectacular, bright shooting-star with a long trailing tail. 

But the lightning bugs stole the show. There were a couple of times I thought I’d see a meteor, and whip my head around, only to realize I’d been tricked by the flashing of a lightning bug in my peripheral vision. 

Who knows, is entirely possible that, distracted by the lightning bugs, I missed some meteors streaking by overhead. If so, I’m absolutely fine with that. The clear skies, blinking bug light show, smell of drying hay, and the song of the whip-poor-will and barred owl were enough to make it worth my time spent craning my neck skyward. 

I sure am lucky I get to call this place home. 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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