Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: 2005



December 7, 2005

The weather outside may be cold

The weather outside is very cold, but all turtles (except on escaped ornate who better be outside underground) are inside, warm and wide awake. We had our second day freeze and the plants are frozen outside but I have managed to find some live weeds and grass under leaves to scrounge about some food for Frankie (sulcata) and Mattie. The box turtles are doing very well on superworms. I think that I will try to switch them over to veggies but they have never been real friendly toward them. No fruits at all for Frankie as I do not want any watery poops inside. So far all the poops have been solid. On a side note, I do believe that my nose is completely used to all the turtle, cricket and gecko poop for I never notice any foul smells in the reptile room.

Frankie has managed not to tear up the reptile room. He does wander around but I have enough obstacles and things for him to navigate that his roaming is more interesting. He wakes at 7:30 a.m. and goes back to bed by 2:00 p.m. I guess for the cold winter months this is not bad. His big box is sitting on a thick piece of plywood so he does not have direct contact with the floor. His box is stuffed with torn up newspaper in which he burrows. In the morning I drag him out of the box and onto his pig-blanket. I turn on his basking light which is overhead. He sits until he warms up and then begins his wanderings around the room.

November 24, 2005

Thanks for turles

Special treats all around for the turtles!

I got outside and picked weeds for Frankie and Mattie. The box turtles (none are hibernating this year) got superworms and crickets and fruit. Frankie is getting a bath so he can come upstairs and play around in the living room. Maybe by noon the temperature will be up enough for Frankie and Mattie to go outside for a while.

Happy Thanksgiving to five turtles and 246+ geckos.

November 17, 2005

Heated up

Frankie's house now has built in electrics. Greg wired electrics through our house (he drilled a hole in our garage), to Frankie's house and to a electrical outlet. Attached to the outlet is a thermostat that can be set to a specific temperature that will trigger the electricity to come on. Frankie's Kane Pig Blanket is plugged into the outlet. We have it set for 60ºF to come on.

There are some adjustments to make. We may have to add another heating pad. We still have to insulate the house. The set-up right now will do for a few more weeks.

November 11, 2005

Of course it was gonna happen

The cold front came in last night, and of course, the three out-door box turtles were above ground. I went out at 10:00 p.m. and found them under hay (only) freezing their little shells off. I brought them inside and tucked them into a large beach towel. This morning all three were happy and awake. No hint that they could have frosted thier little turtle noses off last night. I will soak them in water and leave them be for the rest of the day.

How is Frankie the sulcata? In the kitchen in a big box. I have to carry him outside when the temps reach 55º -- we have full sun outside so he is fine going outside today.

I really thought that by now the kitchen would be mine and mine alone, that the outdoor enclosure for Frankie would be in super shape and the box turtles would be six inches under ground for the winter. Instead the turtles are in my kitchen taking up 1/4 of the space -- not to mention the mess on the floor!

Actually, I am not all that angry - I got to sing the box turtle song and the Frankie song (yes, I sing to my turtles) all morning while enjoying my breakfast and working on the computer. What the heck, except for the feces, I love having my good friends around me.

One more happy note: Russ Gurley sent me his revised edition of "Sulcatas: African Spurred Tortoises in Captivity" yesterday. Frankie's babies pictures are inside on page 17 and 22. Everyone go look!

October 5, 2005

Hibernation question

The box turtles have begun their procession toward winter sleep. Brown Eyes and Bama have stopped eating, to an point, although Big Turtle and Mama Turtle continue to eat. The ornate turtle is not eating at all (a month ago she would devour everything in sight). I can get Brown Eyes to eat wax worms but that is about all I can get her to eat. As always, vitamin A problems always loom about and this time of year I have the greatest concern as I do not want them going underground without sufficient amounts of vitamin A in their system.

The final question is who will sleep and who will stay up for the winter. Big Turtle has not gone under since I got her years ago - she is simply either too big or too old. Mama turtle did not last winter. Only Brown Eyes and Bama slept. Fall starts a little later here in Alabama than it does in Oklahoma where all these turtles originate. The short of it is this begins careful observation of all behavior.

Of course, Frankie the sulcata will not hibernate. It will be interesting to see how he is this year as this is the first that he will spend it entirely outside.

Up and Running

Frankie's fence took a week to get installed. The North and East side of the fence is a privacy fence, the South end is a coated chain link, the West is 1/2 privacy and 1/2 chain. The chain portion will get a screen at the bottom 1/2 so Frankie will not try to run through it. The chain is also buried five inches to prevent pushing through and digging under. We added cement to the dirt that buried the chain. The North side is reinforced with four braces to prevent the wind from blowing it over (remember Hurricanes abound in this area).

September 21, 2005

Permanent Fence

We are all very excited! Today Frankie gets a permanent fence started in his yard. We bought this house with this very large lot - approximately 85 square foot in just the back yard. I've waited almost two years (as Frankie got bigger and bigger) and saved my nickels and dimes. I had a few estimates but I had not saved enough. I got a break a couple of weeks ago when a good neighbor of mine decided to do contract work rather than work in retail. He gave me a price I could afford and today is the first day of work. By Sunday, there should be a complete fence. I shall document the progress and report back.

September 19, 2005

Friends find a sulcata

Over the weekend, a friend called and asked if I would come over and ID a turtle that just walked into her yard - and she lives out in the country - and the turtle was very large! When we arrived we saw that indeed there was a very lovely adult male sulcata. He has obviously been kept in captivity for some time. He is extremely sweet: does not mind being touched at all and likes to be pet. He has been well fed. His shell shows sign of good nutrition.

I have advised my friend to do all the usual things to try to find the owner if in fact he ran away (put out posters, contact vets & police, add him to the lost Alabama pet data base ). I have some suspicious he was abandoned -- if so, the owner's didn't know what a wonderful turtle they let go. Hopefully this is not so. When I went out to see him, he seemed so sad! like he missed his home. It made me want to run home and hug my sulcata.

September 8, 2005

Have a ball

Frankie got a big ball today. Hasn't yet figured out what it is except it is a big blue blob in his enclosure.

September 7, 2005

Eyes and Slides

Frankie continues to play on his slide - that is about ten days worth of amusement. I would say that he missed the slide when I removed it for the hurricane. He was happy to see it again after the weather calmed down. I am still looking to get him a ball to play with.

Big Turtle has an eye infection - her left. Her right eye is clean. Usually if one is infected so is the other; at least this is true for Big Turtle. Odd. I've been putting Terramycin on her eye (which I got from Bean Farm) and have kept her hydrated. I've also given her some vitamin A in a beta carotene form pill. I don't want to resort to Baytril.

I picked up a set of Specula (An instrument designed to hold a reptile's mouth open for medical inspection and force feeding) from Bean Farm. I've been forcing enough turtle mouths open that I figure I deserve some help. Big Turtle is particularly difficult as she will pull in and refuse to come out, period. She also turns her head, when I manage to get it, so that I am not holding her properly just below the mandible.

I did not post about our surviving Hurricane Katrina - luckily we missed her by a few miles and she did her major damage in Birmingham to the west of the city and we are in the east. Still, we were without any electricity for days. We had a generator that ran the reptile room air conditioner but no lights. Our phones all went dead after four days, trees got trimmed in the back yard, but we have a roof over our head which is more than many people can say.

We reached out to see if we could help anyone with turtles or Phelsuma, but had no takers. Greg put us on the list to take in displaced zoo keepers; so far no calls.

August 28, 2005

Playground for Turtles

We have fire ants in Frankie's yard. I spot treat the fire ant mounts and then cover them with things so Frankie doesn't eat the poison. Last night, after Frankie was asleep, I treated several fire ant mounds and covered them with plastic lids. Today I found Frankie using one of the longer plastic lids as a slide. He has been doing this all afternoon! He is having too much fun!

I took QuickTime pictures which Greg says he can post on the internet. Can't wait.

Katrina Preparations

It is official, Birmingham will be impacted by Katrina -- more than Ivan a year ago and that was much! We are expecting high winds, rains, power outages, etc.

Box turtles will be brought inside. Frankie will be left outside in his enclosure but Greg will lock down the top so it doesn't get blown open. I don't think we have time to put on his weather strips that we picked up at Turtle Cafe. Last hurricane we put a plastic top in front and put a brick in front. Mattie gets to walk around outside today but it will be indoors for the next day or two.

We are getting gasoline for the generator in just a bit. Last time we got gas we paid only $2.18 -- oh, those were the days! (gads, I can remember when gas was .75 a gallon!). We will go by the food store to pick up a few things -- mostly for crickets and not so many things for us.

We've put a couple of notices out that we have space for a family at our home for anyone evacuating but no one so far has taken us up on the offer.

August 24, 2005

Late Night Frankie

Went out at 8:30 p.m. tonight to look for Mattie, the spider tortoise (she gets out each afternoon to graze in Frankie the sulcata's pen. Since meeting her and doing lots of sniffing, he has not bothered her since). Frankie usually heads in for the night long before sunset, usually about 6:00 or so. Tonight, in my search for Mattie, which I am doing after sunset as it is so very hot, temperatures in the 90's and heat index in the 100's, I thought I saw Frankie sitting just inside his house. I focused the flashlight right on his entrance and sure enough, Frankie was sitting with his head and fore-body on the door entrance, awake.

I've heard that sulcatas, in their native land, during the very heat of summer, sometimes come out at night to graze when it is cooler. Perhaps tonight Frankie was mimicking the natural behavior of his wild counterparts. It was interesting to see.

August 8, 2005

It's a rule

Well, I have to concede the fight -- Frankie pooped in his house again. Maybe it doesn't sound like a big deal, but when he lived inside and I got to move him outside, I really felt that I had cleaned up my last sulcata poop. But no, he poops in his outdoor house.

The first time he poop in his outdoor house I had to think he pooped by accident, the second time he just needed to poop and couldn't wait, the third time, well that was just plain deliberate, and now, forth and on, pooping in his house is a rule. That is how it goes: accident, need, deliberate, rule. Takes us humans a long time to get it.

August 4, 2005

A cow in a shell

I was sitting in our dining room this morning, looking out the window, watching Frankie (the sulcata) munching down on a patch of grass. After chewing the grass down to a short nub, he moved forward a few feet and began chewing on another bunch of grass. This whole picture was somewhat familiar: I had to consider that Frankie is much like a cow in a turtle shell. I grew up with quite a bit of exposure to farm animals including cows, horses, ducks, goats, chickens, etc., so the sight of an animal grazing is not all that unusual to me. I guess I could have said that 'Frankie is like a horse in a turtle shell' but the cow picture seems more accurate, and I think I remember hearing someone once saying "cow in a shell" about sulcata. So, looking out to my backyard and watching Frankie graze across his field, I admit that there are similarities between him and a cow, but at least I don't have to milk him everyday.

August 2, 2005

All's well

Summer temperatures have returned to normal and the rain is regular rather than constant. Better for all the turtles in general.

Frankie gets to walk around and graze a lot more. He gets up speed coming down the slope in his enclosure; funny to watch. Frankie still gets a weekly fruit and almost daily snacks of veggies. I put out a cuttlebone for him a couple of days ago and he has nearly devoured it already. I've been warned that sulcata eat cuttle bone like candy.

My poor ornate turtle still lives inside. We have mentally solved the fencing problem but have not located the wiring to do the job. Partially this is due to a huge bill that came due to our family that has caused us to delay spending money in other areas - including turtles.

The small, deformed sulcata is just existing. He doesn't seem to eat on his own thought I put fresh lettuce in his enclosure. Twice daily I force feed him a different variety of foods: Sometimes its pureed veggies, a wax worm, or a special mix of commercial foods and vitamins/calcium. His life is just one of waiting.

The three toed box turtles live comfortable in their enclosure. Its a perfect blend of morning light and late evening light. Moist but not wet soil (except when it rains). Lots of bugs around, and supplemental fruit and bugs provided by me.

I think life could only be better if I could put an easy chair inside the box turtle's enclosure so I could enjoy the day in the cool shade with them.

July 24, 2005

95ºF temperatures

Third day of 95º F temperatures for Birmingham. We've had electric blackouts steadily each day, usually beginning at 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. each day -- peak electric use. Luckily we have a generator which keeps the gecko room AC, refrigerator, computer and TV working. Although the blackouts are usually less than ten minutes, the constancy of them is havoc on everything in the house.

Turtles did okay the first two days but it became obvious that the heat was a bit much -- they were hiding out continually. Frankie did not emerge from his house and Mattie did an quick turn around today when I put her out. I decided that it was time to bring them all inside for a break.

Frankie got a snack when he got inside of broccoli. He took an hour to settle down which ended up being on the couch with me. The four box turtles got a fresh bath of water (& fresh water to drink) and are settling down in a nice box. Mattie is running around in the living room. I'll put them all back outside this evening.

Zed, the baby sulcata is doing the same. No improvement. Regretfully, I must consider the possibility of euthanasia. I will do much thought/meditation/prayer on this before a decision is made. Zed is not the first to pass through this process.

I have a few animals whom depend on me for their survival. Bama the box turtle graduated to self-sustained living but for almost a year he was totally dependant on me for sustance while he recovered from being squashed by a car. I have a tokay who cannot feed herself that has lived three years being hand fed and watered by me. Her quality of life is such that it is worth my time. Making such a decision is never easy and I would prefer that the decision be taken from my hands.

July 21, 2005

Da Dump

Frankie pooped in his house. Sounds like un-important stuff but up to this point he was being very, very good and doing all his business outside of his house. I was beginning to think that Frankie had a sense of his surroundings and would not defecate in his sleeping quarters. He proved me wrong and laid out a whole mess of 'crap' inside his house. I am happy that the design of the house is such that clean-ups are easy. I just open the two front doors and sweep the whole mess outside, and then added fresh straw.

July 14, 2005

Frankie Plays in the rain

At 4:00 p.m. today we had a torrential downpour of rain, flash flood warnings et. al. Of course, I ran outside to bring in the box turtles, the spider turtle and make sure Frankie was in his house. Instead of heading into his house, Frankie chooses to stay outside and play in the rain. He wasn't sitting there helpless nor was he in a stupor; he was just playing in a puddle of water. He was digging, drinking and walking back and forth through the puddle. Never seen anything like it.

I was drenched and shivering before I got everyone inside. I watched Frankie from the window -- his was still playing -- so before I got out of my wet clothes, I grabbed the camera and took photos.

It may be hard to appreciate the photo as it doesn't show the rain much, just take my word for it -- the rain was coming down! Frankie looks like he is swimming! And, he was having fun!

July 12, 2005

Turtles out and about

The sun is out and Frankie is out and about his enclosure. I would say that from his attitude, quick step and bright eyes that he is happy to see the sun. Every time I approached his area he came running to see if I had a treat. I gave him a corn on the cob (his very favorite), some scrap red and green bell peppers and cuttle bone. All were devoured.

Mattie got to go outside in Frankie's enclosure too. She immediately started eating cloves and dandelion leaves. No slowing her down on her walk around the pen. It started to rain briefly and she complained greatly when I brought her inside. The rain ceased after fifteen minutes so I bought her back outside for the rest of the day. At days end, when I usually find her already snuggled down to sleep, I found her still walking around. Even she was happy to get outside after so many days inside.

The four box turtles got to get into their pen. I pulled all the hay away from the ground revealing lots of bugs for them to eat -- which they did.

I also brought the ornate turtle outside with them for the first time. The little ornate was more preoccupied with finding a way out of the pen than eating all the bugs. It didn't take long for him to find that he could squeeze through one of the wire fences. His memory is excellent as every time I brought him back inside, he made a beeline back to that area of the fence and then found the same fence on the outside perimeter to escape through. This means that some changes must be made to the box turtle's enclosure before the ornate can be left alone inside.

July 11, 2005

Come and Gone

I slept through the worst of Hurricane Dennis which means that it wasn't so bad for us in our location. Having survived twenty years in tornado alley (Oklahoma), this wasn't difficult. For box turtles, I guess their best defense is to bury themselves but what about the floods?

All turtles except Frankie did fine inside. I was very anxious for Frankie, worrying that his enclosure would not keep the rain out, but this morning he was dry. I am thinking of getting his pig blanket outside into his enclosure just to give him a warm up -- its about 73º but there has been no sun for a couple of days and we are not expecting sun for a few more.

July 10, 2005

Bracing for Hurricane Dennis

We are preparing for the start of Hurricane Dennis which begins to hit in our area at 5:00 p.m. today (just a few hours away). There were lots of items in the turtles outdoor area that had to be stored: hideaways, drinking bowls, leans, plastic tops (for eating off), etc., so that they would not blow away.

The box turtles have been inside since Saturday night. I fed and watered them this morning. The ornate turtle was already inside in his quarantine area. Frankie, the sulcata, was another worry. Last time he was inside he tore up the gecko room, pushing over gecko enclosures and knocking down stuff. He is just too big to be inside. The garage is really full with our outdoor furniture, etc. The kitchen is loaded down with all our plants. So, Frankie is left outside in his enclosure.

I've check over the last few weeks and Frankie's house has not gotten any water inside during rain. However, hurricane rain tends to come in horizontally, not from above. I've put a plastic top in front of his opening and set a large cement block in front of it to keep rain out. Hopefully, that will help. His top is locked down to prevent the winds from blowing it up -- we are expecting 75+ mph winds. If things get really bad, we will bring him in, put him in a large cardboard box and keep him in the dark to keep him quiet.

The short of it all is we survived Hurricane Ivan last year with only a wet garage. Hurricane Dennis is supposed to be just a bit more. We have a generator, gas ($3.29 a gallon, thanks Bush), ice, water and a few rented movies. If we can keep the cat quiet, all should go well.

July 7, 2005

Frankie's House

Frankie has been using his new house for three weeks (more, less). He is very attached to it, having no problems understanding at all that it is his shelter. During the middle of the day, when it is very hot, he takes shelter inside of it. It rained very hard yesterday (the last bits of another hurricane) and the shelter proves to keep him dry. My concern is this: is he spending too much time in it? There was sunshine part of the day today, as the clouds moved away, but Frankie did not come out. I am going to monitor his time inside his house closer.

June 27, 2005

AM Clouds and clouds

Its been cloudy for a few days here in Birmingham and today looks no different. Yesterday, Frankie didn't come out of his house at all. I checked on him and he was laying there under his blanket and straw, head sticking out, quite relaxed. He was not, however, interested at all in coming out. This morning is not different.

Just to be sure I took a close look at his eyes, nose and mouth to see that there was no evidence of respiratory illness. There was none. I will keep an eye out. Now that he is outside every night, although in a shelter, he could be experience chills from the night.

I have a new turtle -- an ornata box turtle. He is a young thing, probably two years old and in perfect condition. He has been in quarantine for the last week. I've put him in a under-the-bed plastic container with a heat light (Frankie's indoor heat light). He has Frankie's old cave (a picture of the cave is in Russ Gurley's sulcata book) for shelter. He has a ceramic water dish. Every morning when I go in the gecko room to water at 7:00 a.m. he is out of the cave and basking under the lights. I put in calcium/vitamin dusted breeding crickets or superworms every morning. The first two days he was not interested in eating. By day three, he was running madly to catch each and every prey. Turtles are amazingly fast when running down crickets. He certainly had no problem eating everyone.

He got wormed on Saturday. Probably after another worming and a clean fecal check, and a few more weeks in isolation, I will think about putting him out with the other box turtles. I will need to look over the enclosure to see if there are small areas that he could penetrate -- he is the smallest of the turtles that I have.

Pictures coming soon!

June 20, 2005

Gone on trip

I've just gotten back from a four day trip. It is always nerve wracking leaving all the turtles and geckos behind in the hands of people with a little reptile experience. I must say that if I had a choice of of "reliable but little experience" and "experience but not reliable" I would go with the reliable. At least I know that someone was watching them.I had a total of four people watching all the geckos and turtles. Frankie, Mattie and the four box turtles were the charge of a first grader. She was under the very careful supervision of her older brother (who is so very reliable I would leave him with five hundred unregistered diamonds, they would all be there on my return). Anyway, her job was to check Frankie every day to see that he was secure in his fence. She fed Mattie everyday and did a head count on the box turtles. When we returned this evening I went first to the back to see if Frankie was okay. He was asleep in his new shelter. I piled hay on him and closed the top. He was safe. I will see everyone in the morning!

June 13, 2005

After a long wait, Greg has installed Frankie's outdoor enclosure. Greg is a perfectionist, saying "if you are goind to do something, do it right the first time and you will never have to redo it later." So we had to wait. The day Greg selected was a day that it misted lightly all day long. He had little choice as the deadline to have this done was fast approaching.

Getting Frankie used to his new house was pretty easy. I think at first Frankie was confused and upset that I wasn't bringing him in for the night as I have done since he was little. However I did go outside after dark and cover him with a towel as I have been doing forever. I think that made him feel a bit more comfortable.

Here are the photos:

Frankie in his new house, feeling very comfortable coming and going through out the day.

Heading in!

Plenty of room to turn around and snuggle down.

I think that this house will suit him for a couple of years. I do like that it is situated next to the house. It has a lock. The lift lid will make it easy to check him and clean out messes.

Early this morning I check outside to see if he had emerged from his house. He had and I watched him go in and out of the new house all day. He sat at the door several times just watching the day go by. I think he likes it.

Hey, Greg, Frankie says thanks. So do I.

June 5, 2005

Good day for turtles

Frankie walked by himself from the gecko room to the garage and then outside by himself with just a little guidance. He is learning! Twice accomplished is the beginning of a pattern. Very happy with this. He is getting too big for me to pick up and I am already seeing a Chiropractor for a back injury (yoga). I hope Greg gets that outdoor shelter in soon!I bought hay for the turtle pen. Only bad thing about this is the hay fills up the space so much that it is hard to find the turtles. Still, with the ground being so wet, putting down the straw was very necessary.

June 3, 2005

First Day of Sunshine

Its been since Saturday last (6 days) that the turtles have been outside. This morning, while it was still overcast and drizzling, I put Frankie and the box turtles under the halogen light stand I made for them. At about noon, the sun came out. I opened the gecko room door and the door to outside. Frankie saw this and for the first time ever, he walked outside by himself. It meant a lot to me since I've been seeing a Chiropractor for several weeks now because of my hurt back. Lifting 40 pounds of Frankie doesn't help it at all.The box turtles went after all the bugs washed up by the rain. Our pixie tortoise went out too and seemed to be very happy to get fresh air.On my list to buy this weekend is fresh straw for the turtle pen.

May 31, 2005

Day Three of Rain

Well, it has rained or been overcast skies for the entire Memorial Weekend and today (Tuesday) too. It looks like the entire week will be like this. Not that this bothers me but a sulcata just don't like it! Frankie, the sulcata, has been inside for three days. We have a very generous gecko room that has a cement floor and a special light set up for him, but I think that Frankie would much rather be outside. He gets up at 10:00 a.m. (lucky) and then goes back to bed at 3:00 p.m. He doesn't do much in between.Posted ImageI brought the four box turtles in on the second day as their enclosure turned into a muddy bog. Although they can do okay in it, they have a tendency to look a bit miserable. I brought them inside and put them into a basket. Posted Image Turtles in a basket.Today I took them on the back porch and let them have water. Yesterday I fed them superworms.

May 28, 2005

Slugs in the night

Last night, after dark, I went outside to the enclosure to find Mattie, the spiny tortoise, to bring inside the house. Usually she is brought in before dark but last night I was out walking so didn't get to it before I went to the park.While searching for her I came across remains of Frankie's, the sulcata, corn and cabbage snack. Feasting late at night was about twenty big slugs, large sized up to two inches in length. I don't come across this size slugs very often as they are elusive and hide well during the day but there they were in a large group. They were too hard to resist! I woke up Mama turtle (three toed box) to have a slug fest. She was a bit irritated being waken up but once she caught sight of these large slugs, the late hour became un-important. She ate about twelve of the largest. She would have eaten more but I was wanting to get back inside the house.

May 24, 2005

Frankie the sulcata

After considering some better information that I've been reading on sulcatas, I've adjusted Frankie's diet a bit. I've reduced his fruit intake and, for the summer quite supplementing his diet with salads greens. His enclosure is full of grasses and weeds and during the summer months this should be sufficient for him. I put cuttlebone in his enclosure and throw old egg shells there too. I may have to add to his food during winter but during these summer months, he should be fine. Certain veggies, like carrots, I will continue to offer to him as they are vitamin A rich.Yesterday I gave him one strawberry that was stuffed with a vitamin A pill (beta carotene). Today he got a banana. That will be all the fruit this week. I am not planning on giving him any other food items this week other what he gets in his enclosure.He is so happy getting certain weeds and flowing plants that I don't think that he will feel that I am neglecting him. Hibiscuses and dandelions are his favorites which I have available.

May 17, 2005

The start of another hot May day

It is morning.  Frankie, the sulcata tortoise, who sleeps in the kitchen right now, just got outside to his pen.   He loves it outside.  He is sunning.

Yesterday I gave him a big bowl of water (size of him). Up to now he has show very little interest in water except as a youth (under two years of age).  This water was different.

Frankie approached the water dish with great enthusiasm, drank it and then proceeded to play in it. He walked through it over and over, and kept stepping in and out of the dish with this front feet.  In the water dish.  Out of the water dish.  In the water dish.  Out of the water dish.  You get the point.

Brown Eyes is not acting restless as if she was to lay eggs, rather she is sitting under a shelter like the other box turtles. I gave her a couple of chunks of cuttlebone and left her under the shelter (top half of a cat crate that I got at a garage sale).Bama is practicing his mating skills by mounting Big Turle on her side. Her attititue to all this behavior is "what ever, kid."

May 16, 2005

Turtle Fest

This morning was turtle fest! I head outside to the box turtle pen around 8:00 am with super worms, supplements, and bananas. Gathering Bama, Big Turtle, Mama turtle and Brown Eyes around, I feed them supplemented super worms and bananas. This ritual has gone on for many years. I figured in Alabama that Turtle Fest would be several times a week since their pen here is smaller than the one in Oklahoma (which was the whole front and back yard).  In Oklahoma, they had lots of grasshoppers, worms, snails and bugs to eat. 

Our back yard is new.  No grass, no weeds.  Nothing yet grown in.  But, Alabama being a bit more moist than Oklahoma, there are rolly-pollies, snails, snails in shells and other crawly bugs. 

The box turtles don't eat as much during Turtle Fest as they used too. This bothers me somewhat because when I feed them I can be assured that they are getting enough calcium and supplements. In Oklahoma, I usually had eye problems. Supplementing helped a great deal. I haven't found a good balance here so right now I give them a vitamin a (beta carotene) pill every month. I have cuttlebone sitting in the pen so that they can eat it when they want.

Bad news is there are fire-ants in this area so I cannot leave any food around. No fruits or veggies can be left in the enclosure without attracting fire ants and risking the lives of the turtles.

Frankie gets a bigger area

Greg and I went out this evening and doubled the size of Frankie's pen this evening. Of course we were feasted on by every evening bug in Alabama; Greg said that he was low a quart of blood.

If it rains tonight again then all the dirt will settle around the stakes that we put in the ground. It will settle all the grass back too. Frankie will definitely have access to a bunch of new grasses, weeds and flowers.

We are still using wire fence that is hooked up to steel posts driven into the ground.  Have I mentioned that Alabama dirt is nothing like Oklahoma dirt?  Oklahoma dirt is all red sand.  Alabama is all clay and rock.  This is not easy to dig into.  

May 1, 2005

First hot day in Alabam

The Turtle Times forum seems to be out-of-whack so the best I can do under these circumstances is to start a BLOG and muse myself about my turtles. This is not a problem as I take great pleasure in thinking about my turtles.

The first turtle to come about was Mama Turtle, a rescue off NE 63rd street in Oklahoma City. Her territory was being torn down for several human houses putting her out of a home. I can estimate this time to be about 1995 as I have a picture I took of her sometime soon after that. She moved to our house in Spencer, Oklahoma where the entire yard was fenced from the front to the back.

Since her, there have been other rescued turtles to come and go but she remained with me as she could not be returned to her old home. Another turtle unable to return to a old home due to habitat destruction is Brown Eyes. Brown Eyes was half the size of Mama Turtle so I guessed her a juvenile.  In just a few short years, Brown Eyes has reached sexual maturity and weighs the same as Mama Turtle.

The monster of the bunch is Big Turtle. Too large to dig and unable to cover herself, she cannot hibernate.  This three toe turtle was dying of a respiratory infection when we found her in November wondering near a church looking for shelter (not in the church but somewhere around the church).

Big Turtle fully recovered within a month but has never since attempted to hibernate. I have always had to provide her with additional shelter as she is too large to dig her own shelter. Russ Gurley has told me that she is the largest three-toe turtle that he has ever seen. Big Turtle, Brown Eyes and Mama Turtle are my permanent residence.

When we moved to Alabama, I reluctantly brought a third box turtle, Bama, who was rescued after being run flat by a car on NE 63rd street in Oklahoma City. Pronounced as un-recoverable by our Oklahoma veterinarian, my skills as a turtle nurse were good enough to pull this young boy through a six month recovery period.

By the time we left Oklahoma, Bama was just learning how to walk again (he suffered a lot of neurological damage). I had planned to only bring females so that I would have no turtle offspring in a foreign area.  I didn't know if Bama would eventually recover enough to become a daddy. That looked like an ornate/three toe hybrid so it did not thrill me either.

That Brown Eyes is currently looking for somewhere to lay eggs means that Bama has recovered and come into sexual maturity.  This leaves me with the dilemma of what to do with coming the eggs. Right now I am just hoping that Brown Eye gets the eggs laid safely.There have been other turtles who were adopted out when we moved here to Alabama. I hated giving any of them up.  It is best just not to breed turtles at all.

Frankie is my spur thigh sulcata tortoise. He is my joy. I thought for many years about getting a spur thigh sulcata and about what that meant. The commitment was serious, I knew.Sulcata get HUGE.

When we looked for houses in Alabama, the backyard size was a top 5 concern (price, gecko room possibilities, location, kitchen were others). I don't have children so didn't have to worry about finding a good schools and a nice place to raise children - just needed a good turtle location and were there any no exotic animal laws.

Our yard is fantastic -- we just don't have a completed fence yet.  Frankie has already, in two years, out grown three smaller fences. I keep pushing Greg (husband) to get the large privacy fence build, already!

Mattie is a small spiney tortoise. She is Greg's baby. She has free roam of the house on colder days plus a great turtle area set up for her in the living room with lights, shelter, water and food. Greg insists that she free roam and luckily she prefers to stay in the living room. On good days (lots of them in Alabama) she goes outside in a nice pen to roam around, eat fresh flowing grasses and enjoy the sunshine. Greg can never find her outside because she hides so well. I find her everytime.

April 30, 2005

Going Home, June 29, 2019

Frankie died June 29, 2019 from Pneumonia or Lower Respiratory Infection.  We fought for 80 days, did all we possibility could, took him to the best veterinarians, tried various drugs, gladly spent the money and much more to help him recover.

We'll miss his antics and his determined personality so much.

Thank you all his friends who delighted in his stories.

Hello, Frankie, how are you?
I am great!  This place…this place is fantastic!  Where is this?
This is where you’re meant to be.  We’ve been waiting for you.
Am I dead?
Your body was no longer needed.  Your spirit is forever free
Can I still have carrots and dandelions?
Of course! 
And Mom, is she here?
Someday, just not today.  We’ll wait for her, too.
Why am I here instead of home?
You finished your work.  You are special. You chose to help a human soul.  The human path is never easy.  Your human needed your help.
But now she is alone.
She is never alone. 
Can I still help? 
You can help.  Visit her dreams.  Whisper she is not alone. Be her comfort. 
I will.  Every night!  Thank you for waiting for me. Thank you for waiting for her.
We’re glad you’re here. Now, if you haven’t noticed, there are dandelions to eat, lawn chairs to push and fences to topple.  Go get ‘em, Frankie!
They will never know what hit them…..