by Barbara Walvoord
Not only we humans at Lathrop, but our wood turtles, too, can live to be 100. A Massachusetts “species of special concern,” native wood turtles (Glyptemis insculpta) live along Bassett Brook.
In this “Year of the Brooks,” we humans at Lathrop are working to protect the streams where our wood turtles have spent the winter buried in the mud. Emerging now, they’re dancing on the sandy banks. Potential mates approach one another slowly, almost touching noses, and then sway their heads from side to side, dancing for several hours before mating underwater. A female may do it with multiple mates. In June, the female may travel quite long distances (for a turtle) to find just the right stream bank spot for her nest. After laying eggs, she and others lumber off to forests, fields, and wetlands for the summer.
If you’re slow, you have to eat anything you can get, animal or vegetable, in the water and on land. Wood turtles trick earthworms by pattering their feet on the ground. The worm thinks it’s raining, comes to the surface of the ground, and gulp–it’s a turtle snack.
Despite this gastronomical creativity, wood turtles are endangered, in part because they depend on so many different habitats, all of which can be damaged by invasive plants, pollution, and disruption. Also, most turtle babies do not reach adulthood, and, despite all the dancing and all the mates, Mom only lays about seven eggs in one clutch per year. So at Lathrop we protect the native habitats where our long-lived wood turtles can continue to submerge, dance, travel, hunt, and reproduce.