Wildlife in suburbia

On Tuesday morning, I let Abe out into the yard and he barked incessantly. Abe usually barks if there are people or dogs walking by, so I figured someone was out for a morning stroll. I coaxed him back into the house with a treat.

I was away for a couple hours, and when I returned, I let Abe out again. And the barking started again, endless barking. I finally walked onto the back porch to see what was going on. Abe was directing his verbal attack at the ground, and when I looked, I saw a shell. A turtle shell? That couldn’t be right. I walked out into the yard to investigate, and this poor turtle, no doubt scared to death, sat with his head pulled nearly all the way into his shell.

I grabbed Abe by the collar and dragged him into the house. He was furious with me. Couldn’t I see that there was an intruder? Nothing that he could recognize, but anything with that tank-like armor must be a threat.

I went back out to check on the turtle, who was already high-tailing it to the cover of our bushes. And he was speedy. I don’t know how turtles have gotten stereotyped as slow creatures because he was faster than the average opossum or armadillo.

This was mystifying. We have a hideous six-foot privacy fence (required by our homeowners association) that keeps out almost all wildlife. I looked for gaps under the fence, and they only one I could spot was on the opposite side of the yard. We do have a pond in our neighborhood, but had the turtle really traveled that far from home? What if he couldn’t find his way out?

Greg and I have talked before about making our backyard a certified wildlife habitat but were never willing to commit to such a big project. And now, here we were, completely unprepared for our first guest. We didn’t have the required water source or the berry- and seed-producing plants. It seemed not completely unlikely that this turtle would die in our unfriendly backyard.

I called Greg. He must have thought I had lost my mind, calling him at work to ask how long turtles could be away from water. We discussed trying to move the turtle back to the pond, but we weren’t sure that was its normal home. I decided to leave a dish of water in the yard just in case.

I spent much of Tuesday afternoon following the movements of the turtle. He was amazingly active, his little legs propelling him over the tall turf in our yard, from the shade of the tree to the sun on the south side. Yesterday morning, we looked out to see him marching across the lawn once again. Still alive. Still stuck in our yard.

I think he might have left because I haven’t seen him today. And I hope that he did and that he makes it to a wetter destination. But I do worry. As far as I can tell, the only way out was to sneak under that gap in the fence, that gap that leads directly into our neighbor’s yard.

One thought on “Wildlife in suburbia

  1. Turtles like this used to randomly appear in our yard in West Texas. They seemed to just be passing through unless I got obsessed and went out to feed them lettuce and cat food. But eventually they would leave again through holes unseen by my eyes. And we didn’t have any water out there, trust me. I think they are landlubbers.

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