Priorities. Everyone’s got ’em. Our priorities are necessarily based on the needs of our animals and the time of the year, and you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been pushing a lot of fundraising lately. Bear with us, we’re new at this. Soon we’ll add a page to this website where you can see exactly what happens with the money we get; since most of our support comes from public donations, you’ve got a right to know!
Winter Housing and Heat
Sulcatas do not hibernate. Take a moment to think about it – I’ll wait. Since they don’t hiberante, their metabolism doesn’t creep to quite as slow of a crawl as it does in other species that do hibernate, so they need to be kept in heated shelters for the winter. Lucky for us this doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, but it’s still not free. We use farrowing pads on the floor of Rubbermaid sheds for our smaller sulcatas. Yoda doesn’t have a winter house yet, but we’re working on it. He can’t be housed with the others because they don’t get along, so he gets the backyard all to himself. For now.
As of today (September 19th, 2015), we have 19 animals to care for this winter. Some – like Rocket our favorite little Greek tortoise – are coming inside with UVB bulbs. Others, like our box turtles, will stay outside, but we will still insulate their enclosures to ensure that they don’t freeze, and will bring them in if it gets really cold or wet. The sulcatas will have their sheds and we anticipate doing something similar for the Texas tortoises.
You probably saw the last post about what a little bit of rain did to our enclosures. We’ve had folks come out to try and help us figure out how to best re-route the drainage, but unfortunately the consensus is that if we route the drainage out of the front yard, it will flood the garage and maybe the house. That’s not a viable option for us (geez, go figure!) so we will be re-directing our efforts to raising up the level of “the 20” (stabilization will be the biggest challenge there, since we’ve already had issues with all of the topsoil and grass washing out of it) and re-locating “the corral” out of harms way. We’ll still have to re-build our lost driveway, but that’s a personal issue and doesn’t have anything to do with CTTR (except maybe for answering the question, “why don’t you just sink more of your own funds into all of this other stuff?”).
Rocket’s Ranch doesn’t catch the flood waters from the yard, but it sits right against the house, and when it rains the runoff comes off the roof directly into the Ranch, so we are going to be installing gutters over Rocket’s Ranch as a health and safety measure for Rocket and the other inhabitants.
We have spent $847.41 in veterinary care for our tortoises since June. We’re new enough that we don’t have an emergency fund established, so to speak. That’s a huge part of what these fundraisers are about – getting money in the bank so that the next time a tortoise gets sick, we don’t have to agonize over our options and balance how much we can spend out of our own pockets to combine with how much CTTR has left to decide on care. The sad, hard truth is that we’ve been forced (more than once) to consider “the needs of the many,” and it’s decisions like that which will keep a rescuer (at least this one!) lying awake at night. Or sitting in the tortoise pen for hours at a time, watching, waiting, hoping and fearing. The cold logistics of financial management are the very hardest part of doing this.
Let’s be completely honest for a moment. In an ideal world, every enclosure we have would be as awesome as Rocket’s Ranch. You know I’m right! Here on planet Earth, however, we do what we can with what we’ve got. We were very, very fortunate to have financial backing for Rocket’s Ranch; between that and the other infrastructure purchases we have made this year, we’ve spent $466.07 of CTTR funds (this only includes funds directly from outside donors, just like the vet bills – we’re not even going to start telling you how much of our own we’ve thrown in the pot with this to make it happen!). This includes everything from the wood and concrete to pour the forms to the bricks and mortar to build the wall and all of the plants that have been planted inside. Outside of RR, we’ve installed pond liners, dogloos, sheds and fences. We’ve got some tortoises in a chain-link dog kennel (super grateful for that donation!), some in “the 20,” which is our 20 ft x 20 ft deer-safe garden-turned-tortoise-enclosure, “the corral,” which is a makeshift enclosure built out of pallet board and cinder blocks, and two smaller enclosures built from dry-stacked bricks and cinders. Every enclosure is safe and functional.
We need to build some more fences so that we can continue to provide homes for the animals that depend on us. Obviously the first priority is to make those fences functional, but this is our home, so it’s important to us that they not look trashy and ramshackle. In other words – a bunch of cinder blocks and pallets is fine for short term, but over time we would like the facilities to be a little more attractive. It will make the tortoises happier, too 😉
None of our enclosures were destroyed or badly damaged, and all of the torts are just fine after today’s rain. Happily, everybody made it inside before they got too
waterlogged, now we’ll just need to put in some big effort to re-route the drainage and raise the levels of the enclosures. The flooding in or area this spring destroyed the little bit of drainage control that we had going for us. What you see here is the result of only about an hour of rain. We are so lucky to live on site and to be able to bring everyone in, but this is so scary and such a reality check, because we haven’t seen all of the delayed impacts of the spring rains until now – what if we weren’t home when the rain started? We need to implement some major infrastructure improvements to ensure the continued safety of our rescues. That’s one of the reason why our fundraisers are so important. All of our residents thank you!!
This is Petrie, the tiny Texas tortoise with a big appetite. Since we didn’t feel like going out and picking cactus pads in the dark tonight, he is getting a treat. Like any kid, you can watch him pick out the bits that he really wants and leaving the rest.
We started a new enclosure for small tortoises and boxies. This will be a 25 foot by 5 foot enclosure with a buried footing and brick wall 3 or 4 bricks high to keep the better escape artists in. Funding for this project was made possible by generous donations from the Martin Family, owner/operators of Martin’s Magic Collection (www.martinsmagic.com). The new enclosure will be named Rocket’s Ranch, in honor of the Greek Tortoise Rocket Martin, who will be coming to stay with us.
Meet our newest rescue, Glacier the 3-toed box turtle! He’s got some old scarring, and looks like he’s been through some stuff, but he is very friendly and sociable. Glacier needs to get checked out by the vet before he can be released from quarantine. Your donations can help break him out of quarantine! Click on any of Glacier’s photos to help.
There are two native box species in Texas – the Three-toed Box Turtle (also called the Eastern Box Turtle) and the Ornate Box Turtle. Three-toed Box Turtles are so named because the subspecies that occurs in Texas almost always has three toes on each hind foot (1). Their shells are typically fairly plain and lack ornamentation; both sexes can have orange or red spots on their necks and heads; males can have entirely red heads and orange or reddish-orange irises. The historic range of this species in Texas included nearly every county within the eastern third of the state as far west as Bexar County, although they have been reported as far west as Kerr County since the 1998 update of the Herps of Texas. A woodland/forest species, Eastern Box Turtles are omnivores and will readily consume plant matter as well as arthropods and earthworms (2). Box turtles are generally long-lived, and the one that is currently under CTTR care has been in captivity for more than 30 years.
Both the carapace (top of the shell) and plastron (bottom of the shell) of the Ornate Box Turtle is decorated with thick orange lines in a pattern resembling fireworks. Their shells are flat on top and not as domed as the Eastern Box Turtle. Ornate Box Turtles are often found in grasslands or prairies, and can tolerate more arid conditions than Eastern Box Turtles (3). Ornate Box Turtles are mostly carnivores, and will prey on arthropods, small vertebrates and bird eggs (4). This species can be found all throughout Texas, though individuals found in the far western counties likely belong to the subspecies commonly referred to as the Desert Box Turtle (3, 4).
Box-turtle declines in the wild are attributable to many factors, including the pet trade, habitat fragmentation, and climate change (5). You can help save native box turtles by supporting research and conservation initiatives, and by not purchasing a wild-caught box turtle as a pet. If you are considering the purchase of a box-turtle, find a breeder or get in touch with a rescue organization that rescues and adopts out turtles that have been found or donated (CTTR does not currently have any box turtles up for adoption).
Why did the turtle cross the road, and how can I help?
Turtles are single-minded when it comes to getting to where they want to be. If you see a turtle crossing the road, you can help it if you can do so without putting yourself in danger. First, try not to hit the turtle with your car. You can help the turtle across the road in the direction it was heading, but do not attempt to find it a “better spot” unless the location where the turtle was heading is extremely dangerous like a neighborhood or shopping mall. Please do not collect the turtle for your own purposes.
This is all great information, but I’m really here because I have a box turtle that I can’t keep anymore. Can I just let it go?
Please do not release your captive turtle into the wild. Captive turtles released into the wild have a much lower chance of survival than if they remain in captivity, and they may damage local populations by introducing disease. If your pet isn’t native to the area, it probably wont survive, and if it is native it may still introduce undesired consequences. Please contact CTTR or your local rescue organization if you need to re-home your turtle.
Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when the wrong thing is legal. –Aldo Leopold
What if I see a box turtle in the wild?
Although box turtles in Texas can be legally collected with a hunting license, we respectfully encourage you to enjoy them in their wild habitats when you see them there. You can assist with the Texas Box Turtle Survey Project by entering your observation on iNaturalist.