Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Kids find wood tortoise
Naturally, the kids found a wonderful, large wood tortoise, large and immensely cooperative. It was handled by all the kids in one group and because I didn’t want to stress it, we released it when that group left. Only the tortoise didn’t vamoose. It hung around the stream so the next group of kids could see it too.
Wood tortoise aren’t all that common, and they are considered a species of special concern in Pennsylvania. They are large, bulky and strong, but very non-aggressive and seem pretty laid back, kind of like the Labrador retriever of the turtle clan. The kids loved it. We counted the bumps on the scutes of its carapace, which tell the age much like rings on a tree though not as accurately. This one wasn’t young. We figured it was at least 20 years old. The bumps get harder to count near the center of each scute or plate of the shell. Many wood tortoise are more yellow than this one, which was a lovely deep red. That color is why the nickname for this turtle is the redleg turtle. And because of its size and the shape of the shell, I believe this one was a male.
The kids also caught a nice variety of crayfish of varying sizes, a long-tailed salamander and assorted minnows. The twice-caught leopard frog was nowhere in evidence. Apparently, it had had enough.