Box turtles of the genus Terrapene are extraordinarily common in Missouri, especially in the eastern and southern forested regions of the state where the three-toed box turtle (T. carolina triunguis)—Missouri’s state reptile—is the most commonly encountered form. Despite this abundance and the author’s more than a half-century spent scrabbling through the sticks of Missouri, I have never encountered a youngster as tiny as the one shown in this post (shell length about 2 inches). In fact, I didn’t even find it—my daughter rescued it from our dog, who had found it crossing the gravel driveway at our family’s cabin west of St. Louis. Such overwhelming cuteness demanded a photo session, and rather than deal with the active little hatchling’s persistent efforts to duck into the leaf litter I decided to photograph it on a clean, white background and arrange some of the photos in a “Naskreckian” collage. My daughter wanted to keep the little guy, but eventually she agreed that it would be better off released back into the forest. While it may lead a more perilous life in the forest, the opportunity to dine on fresh earthworms and strawberries should make up for it, and from these photos my daughter can always remember it for the little pup it once was.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014