Turtle Tracking

One day in the autumn of 2004, I found a turtle in the corner of the yard. INSIDE the fence. He was more than a foot wide and maybe 2 feet long. Moe barkingly pointed him out for me, when she wouldn’t come around to the house when I called.

I put up the dogs so they wouldn’t try to help me. I don’t know anything about turtles but I had heard that snapping turtles can really hurt people. This one looked like it had a really long neck and a sharp beak. I didn’t want to take any chances.

Plan A: I checked in the garage, to see what could I use to remove him safely. Nothing looked promising.

Plan B: I called the Travis County Ag Extension office and presented my problem. The woman transfered me to “Randy, who isn’t in right now, so just leave a message on his voice mail.” WAIT! WAIT! This isn’t the THEORY of turtle removal, I need to know what to do!!!

Plan C: I called Becky, who has much more experience in this area. Use a shovel, she suggested. Okay, finally getting a plan.

Plan D: Bruce comes home just then and helps me. He said it was a snapping turtle. He used the shovel to push it into the plastic trash can. He carried it to pond and put it in. Then we see the tracks of where it came out of the front pond.

Where was it going? It came out of the front pond, went all the way to the end of the south fence line at the back side, turned left (was there a sign I can’t read?), continued the east fence line and SOMEHOW got inside the fence and was in the corner of the yard, under the tree, playing chicken with two of my dogs.

After Bruce put it back into the pond, I return to the spot where it had been, just to be sure it wasn’t leading a turtle herd somewhere. I stick my head under the tree, look around, then look up. Big wasp nest, wasps at home. YIKES! I hightail it out of there. No stings, luckily.

Well, an inquiring mind leads itself to delusions of grandeur. I can see where the turtle came out of the pond and I know where he ended up. The middle part is the mystery. I cull my tracking dog, Yoda, from the pack and put his tracking harness on him.

Turtle tracking, let’s just see what Yoda can do. I want to start from the back edge of the front pond, so I need to walk on the pond edge. Not a problem, right? Not until we get to the corner on the outside of the fence, where it is very overgrown and I can’t see the ground; footing is not so stable, there. Yoda turns towards the pond.

Something rustles in the grasses, startling me. Quickly, I try to pull Yoda back. The ground cover reaches up and grabs my ankles — just like in the monster movies! I stumble, falling flat on my butt, SCREAMING, then scrambling to get up off of the ground! I just knew it was something that was going to kill us.

We manage to escape, unharmed but a little embarrassed. (Yoda didn’t seem as embarrassed as I was. Hard to tell, though, under all that black dog fur.) I’m still determined to track that turtle’s path, so I stand back and throw a rock into the grasses, daring something to come out. Nothing. Yoda and I bravely continue, crossing over the corner to where the turtle came out of the pond.

“Yoda, find it!” “Yoda, find it!” “Yoda, find it!” I tried 3 different starting places, where the turtle tracks were extremely clear. Nothing. He never picked up the scent. Don’t know how old it was. Probably pretty old, considering how slow they move. Oh, well. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

What was I thinking when I moved out here? There is wildlife like . . . everywhere! Swallows and sparrows, hummingbirds and hawks, rattlesnakes and snapping turtles. I feel like . . . singing!

Green Acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out so far and wide
Keep Manhatten just gimme that countryside!

New York is where I’d rather stay
I gather ‘lergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Forgive me my darling just give me Park Avenue!

You are my wife!
Goodbye city life!
Green Acres We Are There!!!

That turtle had better not have been a mommie and laid her eggs anywhere near my yard. I’ll be overrun by a herd of baby snapping turtles. Help! Help! I’m being held captive my Mother Nature!