Saturday, July 05, 2008

Turtle mystery

Photos by Murray Head

Red-eared Slider covered with Duckweed -- Turtle Pond, 7/1/08

Mystery Turtle photographed on the grass of the North side of The Turtle Pond on Sunday [6/29].

The photographer noted:

I've seen hundred of turtles in the pond... all (now I know) red-eared sliders. It was a real treat to see [this one]. . It had just rained and this turtle besides being quite beautiful with a pleasant smile... did not have a single duck weed on it...As I recall it was about 10" long.

But what was it? I wrote Chris Lyons, a Bronx naturalist and asked if the June 29th turtle was possibly some kind of Red-eared Slider. He answered:

It's no kind of slider at all--it's unquestionably a box turtle, but I'm no herpetologist, and I'm not sure even one of them could make a positive call about the species on the basis of these photos--according to one field guides [I've looked at] , you need to look at the plastron (undershell), number of toes, etc.

Most likely it's an eastern box turtle, but it's a box turtle, no doubt, end of story. And I hope it's not the end of the turtle's story, because Central Park is not a friendly habitat for these guys. It didn't get there under its own steam--somebody let it go. People are weird--I saw a woman 'exercising' her box turtle in Inwood Park. She sat on a bench while the turtle kept trying to walk through a fence across the path from her. I didn't get the impression there was a really strong bond going on there. Pretty one-sided relationship, I'd think. ;)

Why Chris believes an Eastern Box Turtle didn't get to Central Park under its own steam:

There are Eastern Box Turtles that occur naturally in New York State, but they need lots of room and natural habitat--they are carnivorous when young, then turn vegetarian as adults--I've seen them eating mushrooms.