Approximately two weeks ago I had an unexpected visitor in my overgrown backyard. I live on the northern edge of a largish city, so the most exotic wildlife I usually see in my landlocked yard are squirrels and the occasional possum. I’ve had to rescue freshly hatched birds from the dogs on a few occasions, but I’ve never had to deal with a reptile (fortunately as snakes and I are not good buddies although I can identify the local venomous ones). I was already feeling a bit of a time crunch as I had picked up my oldest dog from the vet after a dental (three more teeth came out bringing the total to fourteen), was waiting for food delivery, and had arranged to be on Skype to record an audio review for Fanboy Comics at 7:30 PM CST.
I frantically fed the dogs and let out Perdy, Patience, and Miki into the backyard while I pooperscooped when I noticed a strangely unmoving green/black patch in the slightly taller than ankle high grass and weeds. Perdy stepped right over it, but as I got closer I realized the odd intrusion was actually an approximately salad plate sized turtle that had completely tucked itself into its shell! I panicked a little because I feared my dogs would find and kill the poor critter. At the same time all I could think of was how turtles can carry salmonella, so I didn’t want to try grabbing the little guy with my bare hands (I also knew that some turtles bite). I grabbed an unused litter box out of the garage and used it like a scoop to snag the turtle and hauled it inside to my kitchen sink. The long toenails and webbed feet suggested a water variety, so I added a small amount of water to the litter box, so he could hydrate while I called for advice.
Unfortunately, Austin Wildlife Rescue’s hotline proved a dead end since the organization doesn’t take turtles unless they’re injured, but they suggested I try a local exotic pet store called Zookeeper. The Zookeeper staff were very helpful and identified my mysterious turtle as a larger red-eared slider, and they were willing to take him to release somewhere after I revealed I had no bodies of water in my immediate vicinity (I’m not sure how I feel about releasing random critters into the wild anyway). The catch was that I had to get him to the store before 8PM, but I also needed to be home for my food, which I’d scheduled to arrive at 6:15.
6:15 came and went, and I hadn’t seen my delivery, so I finally just hauled the turtle into the car in the litter box along with some carrot greens and a touch of wet dog food (I’d Googled what red-eared sliders eat) in case my visitor was hungry. The little dude was not happy about the car ride and kept trying to climb out of the litter box along the way, and he tucked back into his shell when we got to the pet store.
As luck would have it an older lady with a found red-eared slider and a re-purposed koi pond was at Zookeeper buying turtle supplies when I showed up. The clerks introduced us, and I happily let the turtle go with her to have a hopefully good life. I’d also reached the delivery service and gotten them to just leave my food at the door in case I wasn’t back in time.
My best guess is that my turtle had been purchased as a pet and released when he got too large. A lot of people think red-eared sliders stay silver dollar sized, which is just not the case. He obviously found the right yard to wander into though!
And, yes, I got home in plenty of time to have dinner and get on Skype in time.