Why should a groundhog get all of the credit? Since they are ectothermic, or “cold blooded,” box turtles care about temperatures a whole lot more! Now he may look grumpy in this photograph, but Dot Dot Dash made his first appearance of the year. Ms. Nichols’ fifth grade class receives the credit for finding him sitting in the sun at 11:05 AM on March 1, 2016. He was last seen near this spot in October, and presumably slept under the leaves somewhere nearby. Thankfully, our school administration and grounds crew were agreeable to the idea of keeping the fallen leaves in our courtyard this fall, and they provided plenty of shelter for our turtles to hide.
In early April of 2015, when the Teacher Turtles project began to take shape, we started a census to determine how many turtles have been living in our courtyard for an unknown number of years. As of today, we still aren’t sure where most of them hibernate; they just disappear in late fall and reappear in the spring! This is why I am hoping that we might be able to use new advances in technology to track our turtles… provided that I can find the funding.
We did find several turtles under a bag of mulch last spring; eight turtles crammed their way under there, including Pickle and Mr. Putty. At that time, we did not know that they were the mother and father of many turtles in our courtyard, and it will be interesting to track down the old data and find out which turtles had been hibernating with them. Was it a family group?
What was obvious was that these turtles shouldn’t all have had to cram themselves under one bag of mulch; clearly they needed more refuges in our courtyard to find shelter. That’s why we kept all of the leaves and several branches out there this year, and in the spring, they should also attract plenty of earthworms! The winter of 2014-2015 was much colder than this winter we just faced, so it will be interesting to learn how all of our turtles fared. Surprisingly, Dot Dot Dash only lost one gram from October (when he was last weighed) until March–he went from 365 grams down to 364, which really isn’t bad after going four months without eating!
Please stay tuned as more turtles awake… next week is supposed to be warm.