May 01, 2007

Stalking the Wild Tortoise

Okay, so maybe not so wild, and maybe not so much of the stalking...

This is Treppie, my 13 year old desert tortoise. It is illegal to take these out of the wild, and they cannot be sold, only given by someone who has grandfathered-in wild-caughts, or descendants of captive bred tortoises. I was given Treppie when he was six months old, by the fellow who had his parents and several clutches of their offspring.

Here's Treppie (short for Intrepid, since he's pretty much a fearless explorer) shot from above, enjoying a bit of sun on a sometimes cloudy, sometimes drizzly May day. He's about 14 inches carapace length.

Yes, and not so much of the writing of rants lately. Not that they haven't been percolating through my head, but I've been busy and sick (well, busy, then sick), so I've been rather quiet overall. But, hey! Enjoy the peace while it lasts!



Blogger Knatolee said...

That is one handsome tortoise! And I love his name!

7:30 AM  
Blogger Rancher said...

Hi Melissa-

I have a question I can't find anyone to ask. We live near Visalia on a ranch. We have docile rattlesnakes near our house, barn and corrals. We kill them to protect ourselves and animals (maybe one small one a year). Can we move them far away and will they stay far away?

11:55 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Killing rattlesnakes--any wild snake--is generally a very bad thing to do. Killing snakes removes a key predator from an environment, which means more prey--in this case, rodents of various types. More rodents means more disease and destruction of crops and property. Take a look at counties where rattlesnakes have been heavily harvested for rattlesnake roundups, and where predators have been displaced from land developed into housing tracts, shopping centers and commercial districts, and see how rodent-borne diseases climb, diseases including tickborne diseases such as hanta, Lyme, etc.

I do understand wanting to keep your family and pets safe. Education is one way (many people can't tell the difference between rattlesnakes and nonvenomous species of snake such as gopher, king, etc.), as is taking some basic steps to make the immediate area around your home, barn and other outbuildings less attractive to prey.

Contacting a relocator--someone who can come and remove rattlers and relocate them--is another.

You'll find info on both at my site: my Rattlesnakes! page has info on keeping rodents out of your home and away from the immediate areas around it, while my Venomous Snake Relocators page has contact information for folks who do this.

As for "will they stay away", well, that's a tricky one. Predators follow the prey: if prey start moving in closer to human habitation, then so will predators. During hot dry seasons, prey and their predators will start moving in towards water and cooler places. If the only water and cooler microclimates is your vegetable garden or flower beds, or your swimming pool (at the summer camp I went to, tthere were times it seemed the swimming pool had more snakes and frogs around it than campers ;), then you are going to run into both.

One way to prevent this is to provide one or more shelters and water sources far away from where you don't want the snakes, piles of deadfall near a stream or pond, for instance, where there is ample room for prey to get away from the predators (the latter not always being 100% successful for every attempt at snagging a meal).

Hope this helps, and thank you for thinking 'live capture and relocation' - in the long run, it's the better alternative for everyone.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Gayla said...

Hi Melissa,

I didn't know how else to contact you, and no I'm not hounding with questions, just wanted to say that I really admire you and what you have done with your website/book about iguanas and other herps. I work at a Petco as my summer job and have witnessed (as you probably have) how horribly uneducated the vast majority of the public is with regard to herp care. Frankly it's so depressing and tiring listening to customers talk about their baby turtles that live in tiny plastic dishes with a pool of water at the bottom (and yes, it's illegal to sell them here, but clearly that's not being enforced), bearded dragons and geckos fed solely on mealworms, and people simply ignoring the advice that I give them. Thank you so much for your efforts in public education and making information about herps available to those who seek it. I just hope someday herp care will be as common knowledge as, say, dog and cat care.


10:08 AM  
Anonymous hun said...

melissa you are an undercover PETA freak.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Well, since I have pets, that pretty much rules me out from being a PETA anything, except maybe a target. Now, the freak part I can't argue with. ;)

10:21 AM  
Anonymous J said...

So awesome. Melissa. everyday I don't see Radium basking outside I get bummed

6:49 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I know it still hurts, J, the absence of his presence...

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Grace said...

Hi Melissa,
Treppie is so handsome! Great photo. 13 yrs. That's why you're the expert.

So nice to learn you have a blog! I have a link on my Nemo website to your care instructions. And now my box turtle has a Lucy the Russian tortoise as a buddy. They snuggle :-) and not in a bad way. lol

I too just wanted to find how to contact you. There is such varying info on tortoise diet. World Chelonian seems like the PETA of the chelonian world. I just want Lucy to have a good diet. So is a little corn and carrots and peas really okay? Or is it instant death?
With much respect & awe,

8:01 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Grace, a little corn, carrots or peas is not instant death. If that were the case, I wouldn't still have the same tortoises grazing my backyard after all these years. Well, grazing on the weedy pasturage from the seed mixes I strewed out there years ago which reseed themselves every year, as well as 'offerings' that make their way as seeds into my yard from the birds whose leavings, uh, help fertilize the ground.

That being said, my tortoises, who go outside as soon as the ground is dry enough and days warm enough, do like to come back into the house once a week or so for contraband. Corn, I have decided, is tortoise crack. They would, I think, eat nothing but if I put it out for them every day in unlimited quantites. So, I don't. The three of them get to share a half cob a couple of times a week every couple of weeks during the height of corn season.

Chaca, the female chaco tortoise, will head off towards the indoor feeding station (a jelly roll pan, which is basically a cookie sheet with a very short rim) until she gets close enough to see there is no corn looming over the horizon of the pan, at which point she makes a U-turn and heads back to the basking area to sulk. She eats plenty of the wild roughage, as well as indoor treats of the chopped leafy greens I make for Mike, which sometimes does have shredded carrot, squash and sugar snap pea pods mixed in.

Treppie headed into hibernation for the winter. Chaca and Baby Atlas are still outside, where the weather ranges from cool and drizzly to warm enough and sunny. When they're ready to come in, they'll start hovering on the patio outside the back door, waiting for the TMAS (The Mommy Airlift Service) to transport them indoors.

I don't claim to be a tortoise (or chelonian, period, expert) but know enough to keep these guys healthy and happy, even though they may want to call 1-800-NOT-FAIR and rat me out because they don't get all the corn they want. Ingrates.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Grace said...

Thanks so very much for the delightful and informative answer! I can feed the mixture with a little corn and peas guilt free then. Was surprised my tortoise is so aggressively friendly and quite the little personality. Maybe Nemo will start digging into her stash to see what's so interesting in the food dish :-) Crack corn. haha. love it!

5:20 PM  

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