Critters in the back yard
There are about 260 different types of turtles worldwide. Turtles represent the oldest and most primitive living reptiles.
The most obvious feature of turtles is their shell. Relatively unchanged over the past 225 million years, turtle shells are made up of two parts. Many bones covered with skin that is modified into horny scutes (except for soft-shelled turtles) form each part. The domed top is called the carapace while the flattened bottom is called the plastron. The carapace and plastron are connected on each side by bone or cartilage.
Turtles are omnivores; they like to eat plants & insects & tiny fish.
There are land & water turtles.
n colder climates, most water turtles hibernate buried in the mud on the bottom of waterways, yet land turtles will burrow underground in uplands.
A combination of factors allows turtles hibernating underwater to essentially hold their breath for up to four months without drowning.
Babies are born thru the laying of eggs by the female. Eggs and juveniles are susceptible to predation by foxes, skunks, and raccoons.
Collecting turtles from the wild is illegal in many states. If you find a turtle on the road, it is best to move it gently to the side. That doesn’t mean that if a turtle decides to visit your backyard, you can’t make it comfortable for them to want to stay.
If you spot a female laying her eggs, mark the spot or put a little fence around it to protect the eggs till they hatch. Make sure fence material will let the babies get thru.
Here’s a couple of common native turtles:
Eastern Box Turtle
The Eastern Box Turtle is a small terrestrial turtle, they live on land. Eastern Box Turtles reach full size around 20 years. Some evidence suggests that individuals may live up to at least 120 years of age.
They are primarily active during daylight hours although nesting females are active at night. Fruits, berries, fungi, snails, worms, slugs, and insects are what they like to eat.
Florida Soft-Shell Turtle
They look like big leathery pancakes. They are brownish-green or tan with blotches on their skin. Their shells are covered with skin, and are soft around the edges. Their noses are long and pointy. When they swim, they stay underwater and stick their nose up to breathe, like a snorkel. Their feet are webbed and their necks are VERY, VERY long. They can stick their long neck out and bite you if you’re not careful! The females are much bigger than the males. Females can get up to 24 inches long. Males can only grow to 12 inches.
They are a threatened & legally protected species. A land tortoise, they dig a burrow in sandy soils. Turtles, tortoises & terrapins are all reptiles of the same taxonomic order. Their habitat generally is the difference. Turtles live in water, tortoises live on land, & terrapins live in water & on land but always near water.
Find out more about turtles, tortoises & terrapins at the San Diego Zoo Website.