Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Turtles as pets - hmmm, maybe not

In an earlier post, I mentioned raising turtles and how horribly wrong that went. The whole scoop:

First, you should know that if not married and otherwise occupied (interpret, raising Gwennan), I would probably be one of those animal hoarders that lives out in the desert with 500 stray dogs (no cats), 200 homeless horses and every injured farm animal anyone cared to pass on. My dad joked (probably in fear) that I would bring home a toothless hippo from the vet school that would live in my parents' creek and insist on being hand-fed pureed lettuce.

Fortunately, God brought along Tim to curb my enthusiasm for collecting pets. That, and at one time I accidentally owned 50+ ducks, another story ending in disaster.

So, the turtles... Johnson Bible College drained their pond for construction of a new cafeteria shortly after Tim and I married. One of the students made it his personal mission to rescue all of the turtles from their newly waterless home. We ran into him at Wal-mart (where you run into everyone in South Knoxville - there's not much else to do), and he offered us two Eastern Painted Turtles.

They're pretty turtles, only 6-8" in diameter that are usually social (for a turtle). As turtles go, they make okay pets.

So Tim picked them up. We set up a little aquarium for them with a filter and some dry ground undera heat lamp.  Not  the "big blue" but not a bad set up either.

However, they never used the dry ground, ever. Not one time did they sun themselves. In fact, all they did was squeeze into tiny spaces under rocks.

Furthermore, they reeked! Our sunroom smelled like something died in it. One day, I came home to find the turtles on the back porch. When I asked Tim what happened, he informed me that he told the turtles to stop smelling or he would move them outside. Apparently, they didn't start cleaning up after themselves.

A classmate of mine offered to give our turtles a new home with her boyfriend who collected them. We happily agreed, and Salmo and Nelly found a new home. A few weeks later, the boyfriend took them to his herpetology class as examples of Eastern Painted Turtles. The professor kindly exposed the truth about Salmo and Nelly - they were stink pot turtles. Stink Pot Turtles spend their entire lives burrowing in the mud and stinking, exactly what we'd experienced. They were rare apparently, so my friend kept them. I, however, was very happy to see them go.

I've given up the dream of turtle ownership, although we did nurse an Eastern Painted Turtle back to health after finding it in the dog run. Still, I was happy for it to wander back to a pond where it could foul water all he liked. We'll stick to our fish!

Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle from Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog

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