It was warm for the first week of February. Spring peepers and chorus frogs were calling and yellow-bellied sliders were out basking. There was very little sun, but the turtles were out just the same, occupying nearly every log, rock, or shoreline of the Wetlands.
Somewhere around 3 PM the sky opened up and rain came pouring down. Chip, the turtle pictured above, wasn’t bothered by rain. In fact, she seemed to enjoy it. After all, she’s an aquatic turtle.
If you’re not familiar with this particular turtle, the mark on her side is a healed wound. It’s hard to the touch. The shell has grown over the wound. I know this because I’ve handled this turtle. I’d seen her many times while she walked about the trails and paths here at the Museum searching for suitable nesting sites to lay her eggs during the spring and summer months.
Each year I capture, mark and measure the turtles at the Museum as they come ashore to lay eggs (this requires a permit from the state government). Each turtle is marked differently so as to distinguish them from one another. The turtle in the photos is the only one I’ve not had to mark. Her identity is obvious. She’s also the largest of the sliders I’ve so far encountered. When last measured, she was 11 7/8 inches from the front of her shell to the rear.
While most of the sliders in our Wetlands are yellow-bellied, I believe Chip (which is how most folks refer to her) is a red-eared slider. The markings on female sliders are not as distinct as on males, and, what markings there are tend to fade as the turtle ages. Whether through gender or age, she lacks the classic markings of either species.
So, why do I think she’s red-eared as opposed to yellow-bellied? She’s been observed laying eggs. The nest was monitored, and the young captured and photographed. Some of the young from her nest displayed the markings of red-eared sliders. If she’s not full blooded red-ear slider, she’s got some red-eared in her!
We’re certain to have much colder weather ahead of us, but until that time, come on out and see how many turtles you can count lounging about the Wetlands. Maybe you’ll get a peek at Chip!