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Possumhaw: Transporting live turtles


Shannon Bardwell



Eight good-size turtles bask on the bank of the pond. A few years back we emptied the pond and had the silt dug out. When it refilled only one fallen limb remained in the pond. The pond turtles vie for it. 


One turtle balances precariously on the limb until another knocks it off or climbs on top. They end up stacked like Dr. Seuss's "Yertle the Turtle." More often the pond turtles gather on the far side where I can see them from the kitchen window, eight turtles sunning. 


A turtle's life is an easy one; they drift through the water or bask in the sun. It's easy to tell the difference in an underwater turtle or a fish. Fish are quick and turtles float and kick their back legs and dive. Two turtles dog a green canna leaf floating on the water. Whether they are eating the leaf or simply playing with it, I cannot say. 


There are a couple of hundred types of pond turtles, but maybe these are "Mississippi Map" turtles. It's a likely guess. The name comes from the design on their shell resembling a map.  


Turtles are omnivores so it is likely that the two turtles dogging the canna leaf are looking for lunch. Turtles eat vegetation, insects, decaying or sickly fish, earthworms and the like. They don't usually go after live fish. Not like Sam's hated fish-eating cormorants. 


The map turtles are actually beneficial scavengers in the pond. They could also be a nuisance since they learn to like the pellets we use for feeding bream. 


Like everything else, there's a market for buying and selling pond turtles. Pretty expensive little buggers they are.  


One juvenile turtle will set you back $15 while an adult could cost as much as $50. That's just for one turtle, and we have eight large ones basking in the sun right now. I tell Sam we could be sitting on a goldmine like the buckeyes they sell on the Internet or worms we turn up in the earth being sold as "Cool Cats" and red wigglers. 


Rules for shipping turtles are strict. UPS will ship them for you. You can only ship turtles Monday through Wednesday because UPS does not want to keep your turtles over the weekend. They also prefer that the shipping temperature be between 30 and 90 degrees for the survivability of the turtle. Nobody wants a DOA turtle. 


Certain turtle-selling companies will not sell turtles to minors. You must be of age to buy turtles. There are laws about transporting turtles, like across state lines. Be careful between Mississippi and Alabama; there may be a turtle patrol.  


Imagine a roadblock: "Ma'am, just checking for turtles in the vehicle?" 


The snapping turtle is a dangerous turtle, especially for my ducklings. I saw one last week traversing from one pond to the other. I fetched the .22, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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