The tale of a softshell turtle originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 1, 2014 at (beautifulwildlifegarden.com/).
I’m a bit sad. Well, not yet, but I will be soon. I caught Thomasina, *my* Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) trying to make a break for it.
Generally quite shy, it is the first time I got to photograph her out of the water. She was slinking her way through a grassy path in the garden, about 100 foot from the pond, Quite close to the fence that separates the “wildlife protected area” from the “dog area”.
I looked at her, snapped a few photos and ushered her back into the pond. Anyone who thinks turtles are slow, hasn’t met this freshwater species. She’s a pretty big girl and shot out of the 20-gallon planter I used to move her. She was fast like a bullet, leaving a huge wave in her wake as she dove back in.
I so love watching her paddling slowing around the pond, reaching up with that long, giraffe-like neck to the top of the lilypads. The big bug eyes peering out at water level look like dual periscopes from a submarine. Thomasina arrived on the scene in June of 2013, shortly after the alligator left. She has been a fascinating addition to my little piece of native plant paradise.
Back to 2014: Two days later I saw Thomasina and this time she made it to the dog side of the fence. Still closer to the pond than the street, I again ushered her back to the pond. *Was* I was protecting her?
Mind you, my “street” is an unpaved dirt road that has a total of 5 houses on my side, and 1 house on the opposite side. There is a travel trailer or two hidden back from the street and one or two additional cleared lots, but overall the block is more woods than development. Aside from the local residents on the block, we probably get three of four cars driving down the block a day, so I really don’t have to fear the turtle getting run over. Besides, in this neighborhood most people stop and usher the wildlife across the road to safety.
Truth is, I *may* have a hint of selfishness in relocating her back into my pond each time.
So, I anticipate that one day when I am out shopping and away from home for a few hours that Thomasina will make it to freedom. I’ll be sad to see her go, but I realize that wildlife is wildlife and it isn’t fair for us to try and regulate their comings and goings beyond providing a meal or habitat protection with smart native plant additions to our gardens.
While to me the pond is retirement paradise, perhaps being an only child just got to be too lonely for this lovely reptile. She deserves the opportunity to seek out her own kind, so I won’t try and stop her.
I’m learning the lesson that it is not a good idea to name the wildlife. When they decide to move on it makes it that much harder to see them go.
You don’t need a huge pond like mine to attract reptiles or other herps. Even small water sources can be an asset. Find a wealth of general hints in our blogs or check out this article on adding a pond that will not only provide for the wildlife, but is kid friendly and educational.