Today I learned that the official state reptile of Missouri is the three toed box turtle.
I have one of those.
I’m not sure why Missouri has a state reptile but whatever.
Anyway, I was never supposed to have a three toed box turtle, or any other kind of turtle now that I think of it, but here we are. The turtle’s name is Leah. She was a classroom turtle that my wife brought home from work during the pandemic. Leah was in another teacher’s room, but that person couldn’t take her home for a reason I don’t recall. My wife had agreed to take care of the turtle for three weeks while school shut down, and was going to return her once everything opened back up and we “flattened the curve” which, as you recall, was sure to be a quick thing. Well, one thing led to another and to make a long story short, Leah the Temporary Turtle has lived with us for over two years, and is family now. One of us, one of us! Sorry, obscure movie reference. Also a Ramones song. Never mind. Moving on.
In honor of Leah’s newfound recognition as state reptile (I know it’s not her specifically, just go with it), here are some fun facts about three toed box turtles, and a little about Leah as well.
-Three toed box turtles are so named because of the number of toes on their hind feet. Can confirm. We counted.
-The eyes of a male tree toed box turtle are usually red, and the female’s are brown. Leah checks out here too, which is good because Leah is a bit of an odd name for a boy. Not that I would judge.
-Most 3TBTs (I got tired of typing out that whole name) have a diet that consists of small live animals such as worms, snails, slugs, and various insects, as well as various green leafed vegetation, strawberries, and mushrooms. Leah only eats earthworms and strawberries. She’s picky.
-I read a story that said these turtles do not get sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, but the toxin from these mushrooms can make the turtles poisonous themselves. This is the reason given as to why a group of boys became ill after eating roasted three toed box turtles. Not the fact that these knuckleheads were just roasting random turtles in the first place. Nope. It was the mushrooms. Whatever you say. Stay classy, Mississippi.
-Apparently there are 17 different kinds of turtles found in Missouri. I’m not sure what the criteria was that the 3TBT came out on top to be chosen as the official turtle of the state, but good job, turtles!
-Leah will often burrow into the bedding under her log and stay there for days, not eating or anything. Sometimes she does this outside of the log in plain view. Every time I think, “Oh no, dead turtle” and then the next thing you know she’s active as all get out. I believe this is normal, but it feels kinda extra.
-We have no idea how old Leah is, only that she is the size of a mature turtle. These things can live upwards of 50 years, so it’s possible that one of the kids will inherit the turtle one day. That will be a weird thing for them to fight about someday.
-A turtle’s shell is part of their body. While it is hard to provide protection, it is attached to them, and they can feel what happens to their shell, much like we can with our skin. I know, weird, right? Cartoons lied to us. Anyway, if you ever pick up a turtle, be gentle to it. Also wash your hands because some of them carry salmonella. So there.
-When I pass LeeLee’s enclosure (that’s my nickname for her) and she is on top of her log, I sing to her. She seems to respond to music. Often I sing the song “Ah! Leah!” by Donny Iris, although I’m pretty sure it was not written about a turtle.
-I hope she’s happy here. I mean, for a turtle. I try to make sure she’s got plenty of water to soak in and food to eat. We change her bedding frequently, and try to make her comfortable. I take her outside for walks sometimes too. Mostly in the backyard, though, I don’t like have a leash for her or anything, I’m not a nut. Still, for an animal I never planned on obtaining and one that isn’t traditionally cuddly or brimming with personality, she’s pretty cool. We love our turtle girl.
Oh, also, I have a really sweet girl of a doggy, but we can talk about her another time. Maybe next time. Maybe not. I don’t know yet, but let’s find out together when you join me next week for more MonDAVEs.