Tortoise Thursday

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

Thursday is my day for reptile sightings. I was in my garage this afternoon and heard a strange scrabbling noise. I looked down to spy a Florida Gopher Tortoise trucking down my driveway, heading into my garage. I quickly closed the garage door, which makes a racket, the tortoise just watched it come down and kept going.

These are burrowing tortoises and share their burrows with more than 300 other species, including rattlesnakes. They are a protected species in Florida and permits must be procured to develop a site where there are Gopher Tortoises. There are some empty lots nearby and I am guessing that is home for this one.

I finally got him or her pointed in the right direction and he headed for home, I hope.

Turtle Thursday

Florida Box Turtle

Florida Box Turtle

My greyhounds have been sniffing around a corner of the back yard for the past couple of days, I didn’t think too much about this as, well, they are dogs. This afternoon, my younger and most curious dog, Fuzzy’s Alan Alda (no idea why, this is his racing name – we call him Alan) came upon this turtle cruising back to his corner of the yard and felt compelled to observe from a safe distance the moving decorated rock.

The turtle was not too fascinated with Alan and proceeded to try and climb the BBQ grill cover. I thought ‘Wow, I did not know turtles could climb’

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The climbing wasn’t going very well so I put the turtle back where he came from – outside the fence away from Alan, who was and is still fascinated – about this time my other dog came out to assist with the investigation.

I brought the dogs back in the house and continued the investigation (they went to sleep). Based on the markings, I thought this was a painted turtle which is fairly common further north. Upon closer examination I realized it wasn’t and looked it up.

This is a Florida Box Turtle endemic to Florida and an endangered species (overdevelopment of habitat?) Hopefully, he or she is tucked safely away in their corner and eating mosquitoes.

Toad in my Freezer

Florida, like other tropical environments has some peculiar wildlife, both native and introduced. The introduced kind seems to cause the most problems. The photo is of a Cane Toad, or Bufo Toad. The one I found in my driveway is currently residing in my freezer.

I am not necessarily fond of amphibians in my freezer or the unnecessary demise of wildlife. I had been warned about these toads, called Giant Killer Toads in the media, but had not seen one in my yard until recently. This is a toad that can literally kill your dog or cat. They were introduced to Florida to eat sugar cane pests. I have read they came from Puerto Rico or Australia.

The toads have large poison filled glands on either side that they shoot when disturbed. It is highly toxic to pets causing seizures and heart problems and eventually death if not treated.

A toad hopped into my Living Room the other night after my husband went out the side door. One of my greyhounds was sitting there looking at it when it dawned on me what it might be. I threw it out in the yard and went online to find a picture to identify it.

Sure enough, it was a Bufo Toad. My husband had gone to sleep so I was running around in my driveway (in my bathrobe) trying to capture the toad with a plastic tub. I managed to get the tub over him and decided to read up on the toads until morning. The following morning the toad was gone.

photo by Bill Waller, from Wikimedia Commons

photo by Bill Waller, from Wikimedia Commons

Having seen the interest my dog had in the toad I decided the best course was to get rid of it if I ever saw it again. After researching the most humane way to achieve this (chilling the toad until it falls asleep, then freezing it for at least two days because they can reanimate?!) And people imported these things voluntarily.

Last night we came home after dark and there was the toad sitting in the driveway. My husband picked it up, got sprayed with the venom (wearing gloves) and put it in a bucket. I chilled the bucket and left it alone for a couple of hours to find that the toad had indeed gone to sleep. Then I triple bagged it and stowed it in the freezer.

That is how I came to have a toad in my freezer.