It is not that I have no respect for the law,
but now and again when one is dealing with the canons governing wildlife
the laws must be abridged--not broken--to do what is best for the animal
Thus, if I have broken the laws regarding amphibians,
I am not sorry--I am pleased that I have taken a red-eared pond slider
(turtle) from a very hostile environment, shared his/her shaky existence
with some people that might not otherwise have been educated in the ways
of this critter, and viewed at point-blank range a large doe with a small
fawn and a mink in a swollen stream. Am I glad? No! I am ecstatic
about the aesthetics of the entire affair.
So arrest and convict me if you will . . . fine
me if you must for my outlandish (even outlawry) behavior, but I would
not hesitate to do it all again. Yes, an instant replay of the episodes
with nature is most welcome. You can come along to share it:
We are heading for my Boone County garden from
Fishers (where I live on White River's West Fork), and we turn north on
Hazel-Del Parkway (a very busy four-laner) and at the first intersection
we spot a turtle ambling (they can run pretty fast) across the road. We
steer around him/her. Our speed carries us 50 yards past.
But we recognize him/her as a turtle, and we fear
(at the speed of sound) that this beautifully striped critter is headed
for death at the wheels of a vehicle. So with the road clear behind us,
and our hazard lights flashing, we pull to the side of the road and swoop
back afoot to pick up the turtle.
With the turtle safely in the bed of my pick-up,
we cover the yellow-striped critter with a tarp damp from the Thursday
night rains and head for my garden where we will free the critter in a
small spring-fed creek with a mud bottom. We calculate turtle life doesnít
get much better than that.
As we hum along, the thought flits through our
mind that we should take him/her home for identification, and to allow
my grand kids (and others) to see it. After all, it may be the only time
the viewers will see such a critter. So we overnight him/her in a guest
room (ensconced in a new cat-litter pan) and identify it as a pond slider
(Chrysemys scripts) by the black smudges on each
plastron scute, and the red bar on either side of the neck. It starts
as a horizontal red line (almost eighth of an inch thick and half an inch
(or more) long, then angles to almost one-fourth an inch. The red
stripe on the neck mingles with bright yellow stripes on shiny-black skin
to give it the red-eared name name. The red stripes and bright yellow lines
on a field of black are beautiful.
The night is uneventful, but he/she escapes the
pan and the next morning reminds us that he/she is Mother Nature's child
and the animal shows the yearnings to be free by placing a cold nose against
the outside air that creeps under the door.
So we load the turtle in the bed of the pick-up
again and head west into Boone County (where roads are gravel . . . and
few). As we turn north on the road from Highway 32, a large doe punctuates
the rainy afternoon. She is reluctant to quit the road until a little fellow
(18 inches tall) catches up and they disappear into an ash thicket. As
we motor on, we note that recent chilly weather has blackened the bloom
of some hickories (it may be a poor hickory nut year), the larger
blue flag in the wet ditch is hinting it will go over-the-hill soon,
and the pair of hawks we have been watching is sitting high in a dead hickory.
Their stick nest is more than five feet in diameter and there are young
in the nest.
Soon, however, we come to the rain-swollen creek.
We stop at the farmerís house to show his family what we are putting in
their creek. Then we plant the turtle in a grassy plot near the swollen
creek; the head and legs emerge and the red-eared submerges in the creek;
and a mink (hair on tail) dives at the point where the turtle enters the
water, oblivious of my truck parked nearby and we (with binoculars) watch
the whole show.
Rain pelts the windshield, the wiper blades clear
the view of the mink (head and tail on the surface of the swift, muddy
water). The mink swims upstream and the turtle swims downstream. They disappear.
We realize all is well with nature.
Donít arrest me. I have been arrested.
Click on thumbnail image for larger view.
plastron black smudges identify the red-eared turtle.
yellow stripes, red streak, and black skin, the red-eared is gorgeous.
red-eared turtle shows a dark background with pale yellow lines separating
the scute (pronounced skyoot).