My wife called out to me, “There’s a turtle in the driveway.”
“What new fangled kind of car is that,” I wondered to myself. Then I realized she was talking about the four-legged kind with a shell.
I went to the upstairs window, and sure enough, there was a turtle in the driveway. It had apparently come down the street and made the right hand turn into the driveway. As we watched, it proceeded up the drive toward the house.
Working on being technologically savvy, I raced downstairs with my smartphone in hand and took a couple of photos to share with our daughters, niftily sending text messages with the picture attached. Isn’t that what we do in the 21st century? (But don’t look for it on Facebook, I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Like the turtle I am steady, but slow.)
After I went inside, the turtle continued its trek up the driveway and made the 90-degree left turn onto the sidewalk that leads to our front steps. He continued on the pavement to the first step and veered off into the front garden and then to the base of the house, where it stopped to rest.
We were getting ready for a luncheon meeting, and our friendly turtle was gone by the time we went back outside. There were lots of shady spots for him to go. He might have gone next door into the azalea patch. He might have burrowed under the fence and gone into our backyard. He might have made it to the wooded area behind our house.
A couple of hours later the four grandchildren were at the house. They scoured the side yard, the backyard and even the front yard but found no sign of the shelled one.
All this turtle activity got me wondering about box turtles. Why would he be wandering around? What would he be looking for? Was it a he? Where else would I go to find out such information than the Internet? It was off to ADW the Animal Diversity Web, a product of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
There I found that terrapene carolina can live for 100 years or more in the wild, lives in a radius of about 750 feet, is an omnivore with youngsters eating mostly meat and adults eating mostly vegetation. They typically are most active in the morning or after a rain and tend to find shelter when it is hottest.
Older turtles don’t have predators because they are able to hide securely inside their hinged shells. For those who are thinking that man can be a predator with thoughts of turtle soup, the article from Michigan warned that these creatures sometimes eat poisonous mushrooms whose toxins can remain in the flesh of the turtle.
Sometimes I think that because we live in or near a city that humans are the only creatures around. It really doesn’t take long to see the variety of wildlife that exists in our little corner of South Carolina. I regularly see squirrels and rabbits on my morning walk with the dogs. Deer come past our backyard fence, and we have seen their tracks in the front yard.
Around Aiken Golf Course, where I play golf (and golf usually wins), there are colonies of fox squirrels in addition to the gray squirrels which are more prevalent. Foxes, possums, raccoons and armadillos are also found in our area.
Then there are the birds that are too numerous for me to begin naming. From humming birds to wrens to robins to hawks to herons, they are in abundance and easily spotted if not easily identified by most of us.
The wonders of nature are special and often right in front of our noses. Sometimes it takes a turtle walking up the driveway and practically knocking at the door to make us realize what a magnificent place this planet of ours is.
Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard.