As we prepare to flee to FL from the onset of Winter in our Virginia mountain farm, the first hard freeze of the season last night made it very clear what is coming. We enjoyed a bit of “Indian Summer” today and one of our most treasured reptilian denizens was also out in the warm sun (see photo). This male box turtle (obvious from the reddish iris) was unusually colorful, perhaps as part of his ability to woo females? I always am in awe of box turtles because of their very long life span, comparable to humans, their placid and harmless nature, and the secretive and cryptic lives that they live among us. This fellow might have been looking for a last meal or simply seeking a comfortable spot to spend the Winter; apparently box turtles have the remarkable ability to resist freezing despite digging only a shallow trench to over-winter. I feel very fortunate that we seem to have a healthy population of box turtles on our farm. I think our creation and maintenance of many forest gaps of various sizes, and open corridors (in the guise of numerous little-traveled pathways) may make our wet woods habitat especially suitable for box turtles
So have a special respect for your elders, the wonderful box turtles, which live a secret life in our midst.
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA