And the animal of the day is… the Western Painted Turtle. One sure sign of spring is their return to the partially submerged log in the lake. According to Naturally North Idaho these turtles bask on logs such as this one in our lake during the day, then swim down to the bottom of the pond and rest in the mud at night.
The only time they venture away from the pond is to lay eggs – and it is egg-laying season NOW! Per naturallynorthidaho.com, the turtles can travel up to half a mile from the water. They seek sunny, south-facing slopes with sandy soil to dig a 4″ wide x 2″ deep hole for six to 20 leathery eggs. The sun keeps them warm and the rain should keep them moist until they hatch in the fall.
Our property is, without a doubt, prime turtle hatching real estate:
- Near a pond (check!)
- South-facing slopes (check!)
- Sunshine (check!)
- Sandy soil (mega check!)
We have literally acres of perfect egg-laying spots, as this smart little lady figured out. She was our first turtle encounter after she ventured a little too far uphill and ended up on our patio. She backtracked to a better location and we marked a perimeter around the nest to make sure we avoid stepping on it. In the second photo you can see the edge of the patio and Brian’s hand for a sense of her size.
We’re not sure how she got all the way up here – there were no tracks in the sand from either her trip up – or her trip back down to the lake (60 ft elevation change!). Hmmm, perhaps she’s a Ninja turtle?
Our second turtle encounter the next evening, introduced us to the physical prowess but mental weakness of Whizzer Darwin. Anointed so because we happened upon her while she was attempting to dig a hole in the middle of our gravel driveway and she filled the hole by peeing in it vs. laying her eggs. Not only did she cross way more ground than Ninja Turtle, she navigated around our house to a North-facing slope, and using only her flippers managed to dig a half inch hole in hard-packed gravel. A+ for effort, F for survivability. We were relieved that she abandoned that location, saving us from the fear of crushing a litter (?) of baby turtles whilst driving out.
Our walk then became an Easter Egg hunt, but for turtles, with Brian spotting two more on separate sides of the road.
Feeling left out – it was my turn:
But no. That’s just a rock 🙁
Brian: 4, Lynne: 0 (or -1 if there’s a penalty for calling a rock a turtle)
However, I did manage to spot one. And my turtle is the smartest because she laid her eggs on a south facing, sandy slope, without crossing any roads, and off the beaten path of humans and dogs. And it’s a straight shot downhill to the lake!
And this just in – before I could even post this – another turtle sighting. This time she came straight up the sandy path that Cocoa has worn running up and down the hill. We could see the paddle marks she made in the sand – so no Ninja stuff this time.
A turtle is a fearsome creature, as Cocoa will attest. We will make sure both ladies stay safe 🙂
Brian: 6, Lynne: 1 + a rock.
Looking forward to seeing all the hatchlings come fall!
And…just for fun…here’s a link to Mr. Chuck Berry’s 1972 tribute to snapping turtles (around the 2:00 mark).