Spring has sprung here at the Parklands and, with it, a whole bunch of baby animals! Recently, staff at the PNC Education Center in Beckley Creek Park found a baby turtle scurrying throughout the parking lot. This little turtle was far from its natural aquatic habitat, so the Education staff made it their mission to return it safely home!
Since we knew that there is a lot of misinformation about catching wild turtles, we did some research! Here is what we found out:
- Never take home a turtle found in the wild! They like the wild and will not be happy as pets.
- Research and understand what type of turtle you have found so you can identify the best habitat for re-release! To find out what turtle you have, look at the shape of its shell, the markings on its shell, the colors on its body, and whether or not it has webbed feet.
- Find a safe, suitable habitat for the turtle based on its species. If it is an aquatic turtle, place it on the bank of a flowing stream!
After our thorough research, we deduced that our baby was a Map Turtle, a common turtle species in The Parklands! Map turtles are an aquatic species that get their name from the pattern on their shell, which resembles a topographic map. Interestingly, map turtles are much more carnivorous than other turtle species, but they do indulge in the occasional plant! Their favorite foods are mussels and crawfish, both of which can be found in Floyds Fork, making it a great map turtle habitat!
These turtles spend lots of their time in the water, and they also enjoy afternoon naps in the sun! They can often be found basking on logs and rocks near the creek. But be careful not to get too close. These turtles are shy and will quickly jump into the water if they see or hear you getting close!
Since The Parklands offers a great habitat for map turtles, you may be able to see them when you come to the park for a hike or to explore the creek! For the best chance to see a Map Turtle while hiking, choose a trail that features a view of the creek, and keep your eye on sunny spots with large logs, rocks, or muddy banks! Some good trails to find basking map turtles are the Sycamore and Black Willow Trails in Beckley Creek Park or the Boone Bottoms trail in Turkey Run Park. If you prefer to be in the water, you can paddle or walk through the creek to a sunny area and check logs and creek banks for basking turtles!
After all of our research, we decided that our new map turtle friend should be taken to a nearby waterway so it can have a home full of food and sunny basking spots. We took the small turtle to nearby Beckley Creek and placed it on the stream bank. To our surprise, the baby Map Turtle took the plunge and swam towards a happy life living in the water! Below, you can check out pictures of the baby Map Turtle and the video of its release: