Mud Turtles — Midgets of Charm.

Maybe it’s just perception, but sometimes stuff you’ve never known keeps occurring within a short period of time.

Earlier this year, we encountered a mud turtle making its way across the road on our way to Womack Creek in Tate’s Hell SF. We stopped. I photographed. Just to make sure it wouldn’t get run over, I carried it over to the side of the road it was headed. It was light . It’s limbs tightly encased in its shell, it felt really nice in my palms. And then I forgot the experience.

Two weeks ago at a Tallahassee Sierra Club, George L. Heinrich of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust spoke about spending one year — the year of the turtle — trying to locate over 59 turtles throughout the US. One of these was the mud turtle, in Texas, where the access was protected because poachers love mud turtles — for the pet trade.

Even then, I didn’t remember that mud turtle we had seen on Jeff Sanders Road. Reviewing photos on inaturalist.org I came across a photo of a mud turtle we had taken at Rock Landing off the Crooked River in Tate’s Hell SF. By then, I had enough information about mud turtles to make it stick in my mind.

Two days ago, while paddling Womack Creek, on river right where most cooters and sliders do not seem to like as much as river left, on a branch of a submerged tree, I glimpse a small turtle. It’s unusual shape caught my eye and I back-paddled and got into a thicket of branches. This little one didn’t move — most turtles will plop into the water at first sign of even the slight chance of encroachment. And as I tried to maneuver my kayak through all the branches, it stayed there, not evening hiding its legs within it’s shell.

This one looks like a Florida Mud Turtle, Konosternon steindachneri except that Amphibian and Reptiles of Florida (Krysko, Enge, Moler) says that it’s endemic to the Florida peninsula south of the Suwannee River. Apparently the other similar species K. subrubrum is to be found west of the Suwanne River, so it might be that also, or a hybrid, which the authors think possible. I’ve posted it on inaturalist.org, so I may be revising this paragraph.

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