I was surprised to come across our resident Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) today sunning herself on the bedrock outcropping on our small river. Listed as species of special concern in Massachusetts, I usually see this one at least once a year, generally in the same vicinity of our stream. We communed for a long while, but the activity of the dog, who barely noticed the small creature, combined with humans too close for comfort, sent her heading for the safety of water. Once wet, the beauty of her shell scutes, both in texture and color became apparent.
I felt a bit sorry to have disturbed her, but she didn’t seem too bothered, pulling her head, tail and legs in a classic defensive posture. As soon as she was righted, out she came and continued on her way. This is the first time I was able to get close, all the other sightings were too far away. These turtles can move pretty fast when they need to!
From what I read, they are omnivores with their favored food being earthworms and corn. The warm months find them living and feeding mostly on land, in fields, riparian woods and bogs, finding shelter in burrows and overhanging vegetation. Turtles seen sunning themselves aren’t just sunbathing for warmth, they need to dry their shell and skin to prevent fungal growth, which can adversely affect their health. They overwinter in muddy banks and stream bottoms and can live up to 100 years. Threats to their population are human development and habitat destruction, roadways, domestic pets and predators (particularly to hatchlings), and pollution. It is illegal to possess these as pets.
Lastly, I thought I’d include the symbolism of turtles which is peace, staying grounded, determined, slowing down, emotional strength and ancient wisdom. I’ll take my sighting today as assurance that I’m on the right path, stay the course and keep my solid connections with Mother Earth!