Climbing Aboard

Monday, August 13, 2018,

This is a photograph of a Red-eared Slider clambering aboard a floating log in order to sun itself. This is a female. One of the differences between male and female sliders is their size. The females grow larger than the males. Now, I realize that you cannot judge this turtles size by this pic, but I remember taking this photograph as well as the size of this pretty lady. She was pretty big. Another difference in Slider gender is the length and shape of the tail, but that doesn’t help us here because the tail is not in view in this photograph. So now we have a little conundrum. How can you, my dear reader, be able to judge for yourself the gender of this turtle? There are two more methods for making this decision. One concerns the shape of the plastron – that’s the bottom shell- but we cannot see enough to make any judgements. However, there is one more method at our that we can put to use. Do you see the size of the claws? Male Sliders have much more longer claws than females, more than twice the length than their girlfriends. It seems that the males need longer claws to help them get a better grip while mating. The pretty lady in this photo has sensible nails. 

Those of you that read this blog on a regular basis are probably aware of my basic disdain for this species of turtle. My complaint is that these turtles do not belong in Long Island ponds or rivers, but there is no denying their basic beauty. Of course, that beauty is the reason we find them here. In days past, these animals were staples of the pet trade. One could purchase a baby Slider in a tiny tank for a very fair price. The new owners were not aware of how large their new turtles could grow. In a few short years, that two inch cutie can grow into foot long beast. Not many folks plan on such contingencies, and, for many people, the easy solution was releasing their beloved pets into the wild. Unfortunately, despite being a southern species, Red-eared Sliders turned out to be very hardy. They manage our northern winters quite well and have managed to reproduce several generations. They are now a fact of life here on Long Island but they do serve as an example of the dangers inherent in releasing non-native species into the wild. You see, while there is no denying the beauty of Red-eared Sliders, they are beginning to crowd out our native freshwater turtles, the Eastern Painted Turtle, which is, in my own view, an even prettier turtle. JK.

Baby Red-Eared Slider

Wednesday, August 2, 2017,

We haven’t done any major cuteness here in a while so maybe we’re due. This little guy is a baby Red-eared Slider. This year’s model for certain. Unless you’re viewing this post on your Smart Phone, you’re seeing a larger than life image. Its shell is barely an inch long, if that.

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These are good-looking turtles from the get-go. And that, unfortunately, is the reason they are here on Long Island and many other northern freshwater ponds and rivers. I’ve photographed them as far north as Maine. It’s illegal to sell them now but years ago these southern-based turtles were mainstays of any pet store you walked into. Most stores would have a display right there at the check-out counter. The whole kit came complete with the baby turtle, a one gallon terrarium (yes, you read that right), and a plastic palm tree. What the nice folks behind the counter didn’t mention was that these beautiful little turtles did not remain so little. In only a few years they did not only outgrow that tiny terrarium but they grew bigger than the terrarium itself. The once cute little turtle no longer fits on a convenient shelf in a bedroom. This poses a problem.

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So what does one do with a child’s beloved pet when there’s no longer any room at the inn? Well, the answer for far too many folks, and for far too long, was to release these once loved animals into the wild. The reasoning was “It’ll be with its friends. It’s where it belongs.” The problem with that line of thought was that they did not belong here. Red-ears are a southern species of turtle but despite that they have thrived here and in many other places where they just shouldn’t be. There are now laws in place restricting the sale and release of these turtles (even in Florida) but the damage has already been done. This cute little guy wasn’t born in a pet shop, nor, probably, were his parents. For good or bad, these turtles are now a part of our Long Island landscape. There are so many of them that they are crowding out many of our own native species, including the even more beautiful Eastern Painted Turtle. Every year, on every freshwater pond, lake, or river, I see more invasive turtles than the very species that belong here. There’s something a whole lot wrong with that picture.  JK      

 

Big and Ugly

Thursday, May 25, 2017,

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Really big. Really, really big. And really, really ugly. But check out that eye. That eye is magnificent. Click on the image for a larger view. This is a Common Snapping Turtle that I caught a glimpse of at Frank Melville Park in Setauket. She’s so ugly that she’s downright beautiful. Beauty is everywhere, even where you can’t see it. JK

Two Generations of Red Ears

Tuesday, May 9, 2017,

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This is a pair of Red-eared Sliders that I saw at Frank Melville Park in Setauket. To be honest, I never noticed the little guy till I was reviewing my shots when I got home. To the uninitiated this might seem like an obvious choice for a Mother’s Day post. Unfortunately, there is no real reason to believe that these two turtles are related. Like most other turtle species, Red-eared Sliders make their nests and lay their eggs, and that’s it. It’s a system that works for them. This is a species of turtle that doesn’t belong this far north but they have been conquering new territory thanks mostly to the pet trade, despite the fact that it is no longer legal to sell Red-eared Sliders in New York. Unfortunately, these turtles were able to establish themselves in our waters long before any such sanctions took place. Nature has no need to wait for politicians to take notice of the obvious. JK