Recently, while showing our granddaughter, Grace, the windmills on Armenia Mountain, we stopped at the home of friends Laurie and Jeff Castle. Their daughter, Hannah, showed me an egg that her pet turtle had laid.
Hannah had the red-eared slider for eight years and throughout that time, she thought it was a male. You can imagine her surprise when she found the turtle's egg.
After checking several books, I found that female turtles can and do lay eggs, even if never bred. Egg laying can be a dangerous event for captive turtles.
Hannah's sister, Louise, works for a veterinarian who said that the turtle probably was carrying more eggs, which will be retained as long as possible while the turtle seeks an appropriate nesting site.
The vet said that egg laying might not happen again for two or three weeks and could take months.
There's a good possibility that the turtle had retained the eggs for quite some time since she didn't have a proper nesting site when the first egg was laid.
If the turtle retained the eggs too long, infection, organ damage and even death could occur.
Hannah was advised to make a nesting site as soon as possible. She was to mix sand and organic matter to a depth of at least 10 inches and include a pond, such as a wading pool.
Recently, I read where a father in southwestern Pennsylvania recovered a turtle on which his son had carved his initials 47 years before.
The story began in 1965 when Jeff Cokeley, then 13, was playing in the woods surrounding his family home when he came across a tiny box turtle. Jeff carved his initials (J.C.) and the year on the turtle's bottom hard shell. He then released the turtle.
Jeff grew up and eventually moved away from the area. So, one can only imagine how surprised Jeff, who now is 59 and resides in Rochester, N.Y., was when he received a call from his father who said he had taken pictures of a large box turtle with Jeff's message etched on the bottom shell.
After taking pictures, the dad once again released the turtle.
While the average life span of a box turtle is about 50 years, some can live as long as 100.
Later, I read another article about a turtle that had been found with a Civil War era date etched on its shell. The turtle's age was documented by experts; however, I cannot remember where I read this story.
After Jeff's article appeared in the news, there was much controversy concerning whether a turtle can feel pain through its shell.
From what I read, turtles can feel things that come in contact with their shells due to nerve endings located there; however, these are not the type of nerve endings to feel pain.
Their shells, which are made of keratin, can be compared to our fingernails that can be scraped with a knife and no pain felt.
Turtles are among the oldest living reptiles on the planet.
A turtle continues to grow as long as it lives; however, the growth is very slight after the turtle reaches maturity. This is the reason that initials and dates still can be read on a turtle's shell even after many years.
I checked several days ago and, yes, Hannah's turtle laid four more eggs; however, Hannah told me she had to put the turtle back into its pen and familiar surroundings before the turtle laid its remaining eggs.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.