Hinged Companions

For the next few weeks, I will be conducting tree surveys in Missouri – tramping about through the woods and sleeping in what will probably end up being a combination of rustic cabins and motels. I’m currently drafting this blog post while sitting near my very warm wood-burning stove in a small cabin a good twenty minute drive straight into the woods from the closest highway.

Lake of the Ozarks hillside woods
The first site we surveyed is a hilly, primarily dry-mesic to dry chert woodland with upland flatwoods dominated by white, post, and black oaks. On the second day of surveying, we happily encountered two Eastern box turtles, and a third little fellow the third day. Two were immediately frightened and snapped their hinged shells quickly, refusing to let us take a peek, while the other, a smaller, more docile male, distinguished by his red eyes (females’ eyes are yellow to brown) allowed me to take a few glamor shots.

Eastern box turtle shell Missouri Eastern box turtle shell Missouri
Eastern box turtle shell hinged Missouri

male Eastern box turtle Missouri

male Eastern box turtle Missouri

It was my first experience seeing a box turtle in his/her natural environment. The only other time I have known a box turtle scuttling about outside was at the Chicago Botanic Garden. He was likely someone’s pet and had been dropped off into “nature,” unwanted by his former owner (the CBG ensured he was delivered safely to a herp rescue organization).

Some of the hills we’ve traversed are quite steep with loose cobble and small boulders. I can’t help but imagine some little turtles might lose their three-toed footing and bounce down the rocky slope; at the least they’d be quite protected by their glorious hinging shells.

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