Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Saturday: 16 August 2014

Good News on Katherine  -  @ 08:14:49
Last Friday, August 8, I found Katherine the box turtle again, very close to her mapped centroid. This was the first time I'd seen her since June 14, when I noted what was thought in comments to be a large aural abscess on the left side of her head. It was large enough that she couldn't close up in her shell.

Below, the photo on left shows that her head looks fairly normal now - if there's still some swelling, it's barely apparent. She's now able to completely close up in her shell, right. Or at least as much as she can with the heavily damaged carapace.

Here is the turtle observation property map* with previous observations of Katherine. The lower arrow shows my June 14 discovery.

The upper arrow shows the northernmost corner of our property on Goulding Creek. It memorializes a July 6 discovery by next door neighbor Tom. The actual red dot should be about 300 feet farther up Goulding Creek, off the map here. Tom said her abscess was still obvious at that time.

So it's good to see that she seems to have recovered. Moreover, sometime in the three weeks since my original observation, she made a journey of at least 1100 feet from usual haunts down to Goulding Creek and upstream from our property. And then, of course, another 1100 feet back home sometime in the last 4-5 weeks. I didn't run across her in transit during those eight weeks, though I traversed the area in between many times.

I don't have many weight measurements on Katherine, but she weighed 460 grams last year, and the same when I found her with the abscess. Last Friday she weighed 420g, so she had lost about 10% of her weight in the last eight weeks. Those measurements are probably reliable, but the significance isn't clear. I noted July 27 that Sylvia had also lost the same amount of weight after I found her returned from her long journey, and she was apparently healthy. So Katherine's weight loss can't necessarily be attributed to her abscess.

*Here is the property map description originally posted at the first link, if things aren't clear:
I've been using Excel to construct simple maps that show some of the particulars of my box turtle encounters. The lines and points are derived from GPS readings. The map does not contain many geographical features, but does show the boundaries of the property, and particularly Goulding and SBS Creeks, as well as the "dry creek" that runs across the western 20 acres. You can fill in the rise of hills if you imagine a floodplain of variable width on either side of Goulding Creek, and hills rising with variable steepness on either side of all three creeks. The scale is approximate; each gridded box is roughly 6 acres, if you prefer.

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