Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Cousin: The Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern Box Turtle is a subspecies of one of two species of box turtles found in the United States. It is the only "land turtle" found in North Carolina, where it is the state reptile. Box turtles are slow crawlers, extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year.

Eastern Box turtles have a high, dome-like carapace and a hinged plastron that allows total shell closure. The carapace can be of variable coloration, but is normally found brownish or black and is accompanied by a yellowish or orangish radiating pattern of lines, spots or blotches. Skin coloration, like that of the shell, is variable, but is usually brown or black with some yellow, orange, red, or white spots or streaks.

Males normally possess red eyes (irises) whereas females usually display brown eyes. Eastern box turtles feature a sharp, horned beak, stout limbs, and their feet are webbed only at the base. Eastern box turtles have 5 toes on each front leg, and normally 4 toes on each hind leg, although some individuals may possess 3 toes on each hind leg. Staying small in size, most range from 4.5 to 6 inches, but occasionally reach over 7 inches. In the wild, box turtles are known to live over 100 years, but in captivity, often live much shorter lives.

When injured or damaged, the shell has the capacity to regenerate and reform. Granular tissue slowly forms and keratin slowly grows underneath the damaged area to replace damaged and missing scutes.

The Eastern Box turtle is found mainly in the eastern United States, as is implied by its name. They occur as far north as southern Maine and the southern and eastern portions of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, south to southern Florida and west to eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the northern parts of their range, they are rarely found above 1,000 feet in elevation.

Eastern box turtles prefer deciduous or mixed forested regions, with a moderately moist forest floor that has good drainage. Bottomland forest is preferred over hillsides and ridges. They can also be found in open grasslands, pastures, or under fallen logs or in moist ground, usually moist leaves or wet dirt. They have also been known to take "baths" in shallow streams and ponds or puddles, and during hot periods may submerge in mud for days at a time.

In the wild, eastern box turtles are opportunistic omnivores and will feed on a variety of animal and vegetable matter. There are a variety of foods which are universally accepted by eastern box turtles, which include earthworms, snails, slugs, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms, flowers, bread, duck weed, and carrion.

Thousands of box turtles are collected from the wild every year for the domestic pet trade, primarily from South Carolina, the only remaining state where they can legally be captured from the wild and sold for profit. Captive turtles may have a life span as short as three days if they aren't fed, watered, and held in a proper container. The vivid shell color found in many eastern box turtles often fades when a turtle is brought into captivity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Cousin: Hermann's Tortoise

The Hermann's Tortoise rugged lifestyle and small adult size have made them one of the most popular reptile pets in the United States. These tortoises originate in the grasslands and various terrain surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean, and thrive in similar dry and moderate conditions. These tortoises will cheerfully excavate their own burrow if a suitable hide is not provided for them and will eat a variety of grasses and leafy vegetables you can plant outside. These tortoises are exceptionally hardy, and will thrive for many decades with good care.

Female Hermann's tortoises are typically larger than males once mature. However, even the largest female specimens rarely exceed 8 inches in length, making them easy to accommodate, regardless of gender. Nobody knows for certain how long a captive-born Hermann's tortoise can live. However, based on the longevity of animals acquired as adults, and that of similar species, life spans exceeding 50 years can be expected.

Tortoises are active animals, and should be provided with as much space as possible. Even when provided with a spacious enclosure, the use of an outdoor pen is recommended during the warmer months. These pens should be secure to prevent escapes. Tortoises housed outdoors, even if for only a few hours a day, will benefit greatly from the fresh air, natural sunlight, and opportunity to graze.

Hermann's Tortoises are primarily herbivores in the wild, and a similar diet should be provided in captivity. The bulk of their diet should consist of a variety of dark, leafy, greens. Romaine lettuce, collard greens, carrot tops, kale, mustard greens, and beet greens are all excellent choices.

In addition to these staples, other veggies such as carrots, squash, and bell peppers can be offered to add variety. Fruits such as figs, apple, bananas, and strawberries can be fed occasionally as treats, but these foods should make up no more than 10% of the animals diet.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Cousin: Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle

The Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle, or yellow-blotched sawback, is a species of turtle in the Emydidae family. It is part of the narrow-headed group of map turtles. It is endemic to the southern United States and is limited to the Pascagoula River of Mississippi and most of its tributaries.

Yellow-blotched map turtles are medium to small-sized turtles, with males ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 inches in carapace length as adults. Adult females are larger, about 5 to 7.5 inches in carapace length. The yellow-blotched map turtle has the highest central keel of all map turtles.

Yellow-blotched map turtles feed mostly on insects, but are opportunistic feeders and also consume crustaceans and fish they also eat some fresh greens.

This species is listed as Threatened under the US Endangered Species Act due to a recent decline. This can be attributed to a low reproductive frequency as compared with most other map turtles. A high level of nest mortality due to fish crow predation and river flooding are also attributed to endangerment.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Feeding Time

For the big boys...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ready. Steady. Go!

(what a handsome devil!)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015