"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Life In The Fast Lane
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

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 involved. 

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.jpg (75753 bytes)
turtlehead.jpg (58899 bytes)
carapace.jpg (86661 bytes)
The plastron black smudges identify the red-eared turtle.  With yellow stripes, red streak, and black skin, the red-eared is gorgeous.  The red-eared turtle shows a dark background with pale yellow lines separating the scute (pronounced skyoot). 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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