Monday, October 15, 2012


I discovered a few years ago that, when you have birds, people give you birds. This summer I learned that birds aren't the only thing that works like that. It all started when I began teaching my annual Animals and Art class, and got back in touch with a family who brings in their reptiles every year. If you are a weird and interesting person who owns a lot of strange animals, you end up making friends with other weird and interesting people who own a lot of strange animals. Then, when someone tosses you another unwanted creature, you have a whole network of people who might like to add it to their menagerie.

My friends have tortoises and had divided their enclosure to make a space for the box turtle, but she had been sitting in a corner and refusing to eat, and they weren't sure what else to do with her. After reading quite a bit about box turtles, I still had a few questions, so I called the awesome turtle sanctuary in town. I've read about the sanctuary a lot and was dying to visit, but it has been closed to the public for a while.

So we made plans to go visit and I started building a turtle enclosure in my yard. In the interest of being sustainable, green, and cheap, I asked the local Freecycle mailing list for some old boards. I was immediately offered a few 2x4's and also a second box turtle.

When you love exotic animals and someone offers you one they clearly have no clue how to care for, the answer is always "yes". Freed from a life of boredom in a plastic tub with a small dusting of potting soil, Turtle #2 immediately took to a life of burrowing in the yard and foraging for fruit and bugs. I took the turtles to the sanctuary with me and learned that they were both girls, and I got to see all the wonderful turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, and birds at the sanctuary. When I described my turtles' enclosure and diet, they offered me a couple of boy turtles to keep them company.

And that is how I ended up with four three-toed box turtles. They are a lot of fun to watch, they each have distinct personalities and favorite spots to hang out. It turns out that Turtle #1 is just grumpy by nature and prefers to spend her time hiding. Now that we have convinced her to each something other than peaches, she has relaxed quite a bit. She still immediately turns into a box whenever I pick her up, though.

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