The Philosophy|of Turtles

     So these two guys on a Kentucky horse farm found a 75-lb. snapping turtle that had been biting the noses of horses that tried to drink in its pond.
     “The snapping turtle appears to be a good example of an animal that can take care of itself,” the Turtle Guys say.
     Boy, I’ll say.
     “Turtles of the United States and Canada: Second Edition,” is a 4-kilo brick that cites 5,200 scientific papers, up from the paltry 3,000 of the first edition.
     I love books by experts. This one has stuff that even turtles don’t need to know: mitochondrial DNA, transfer RNA, potassium excretion potential. Who cares? (Apologies to the Turtle Guys: Carl H. Ernst and Jeffrey E. Lovich.)
     I’m reading it for the stories.
     True, I could find more stories, quicker, by hanging around in bars. But not stories about turtles.
     For instance, if you disturb a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) – and I do not suggest you do – it may defend itself by farting, exposing its penis, exuding obnoxious odors, urinating, and, of course, biting you so hard you’ll be sorry.
     I have tried all these methods of defense, in my time. But my time, alas, is past.
     “The safest way to carry a snapping turtle is to grasp it by the hind limbs while keeping its head down and the plastron toward you and well away from your legs,” the Turtle Guys say.
     Thanks, Turtle Guys!
     But what, exactly, do you mean by “safest” or “well away”?
     Safest for who?, Turtle Guys? And how far away is “well away”?
     The Turtle Guys assure us that snapping turtles cannot bite through a broomstick, as the old wives’ tale says. No, the Turtle Guys say, a snapping turtle can only bite halfway through a broomstick: It will only bite all the way through if you try to take the broomstick away from it.
     Thanks again, Turtle Guys! For caring!
     I realize I’m being way too hard on the Turtle Guys.
     I am glad – not exactly overjoyed, but glad – that a select crew of people devote their lives to studying turtles.
     One of the turtle guys weighed 2,007 turtle eggs, and correlated the size of the eggs to the size of the turtles that hatched from them.
     That’s admirable dedication. But I wonder why the turtle guy could not be satisfied with measuring the size of just 1,007 eggs, and spending the time saved on something more relaxing, such as The New York Times crossword puzzle.
     (Actually, as a Times crossword puzzle addict, Thursdays through Saturdays, I can see why someone would rather measure turtle eggs.)
     And speaking of dedication, the Turtle Egg-Measuring Guy returned to the same pond every year for 30 years to tell us how the turtles were doing.
     I think that’s great. I’m not sure why it’s great, but it’s great.
     The snapping turtle is the only obnoxious turtle, and I’m sorry I’ve dwelled upon it.
     Here in Vermont, I rescue all the turtles I can, as they waddle across the roads.
     Most of them, I know now, are female turtles, looking for a place to lay eggs.
     Pet turtles, many of them exported illegally, bring $22 million a year to the United States. Among the “hardest hit” are the “personality species,” Glyptemus insculpta (the wood turtle) and Clemmys guttata (the spotted turtle).
     I’m not sure why the turtle guys say these turtles have more, or better, personalities than other turtles, but who am I to argue with the turtle guys?
     Turtles have been around for 320 million years. They outlasted the dinosaurs.
     “Turtles are fascinating creatures, liked by almost everyone,” the turtle guys say in the very first sentence of their book.
     The turtle guys say that one reason turtles have survived so long is because of turtles’ “philosophy.”
     Your average turtle wakes up in the morning and basks for a few hours in the sun. Then it forages for food. Then it basks in the sun for another couple of hours. Then it eats again. Then it goes to sleep.
     Sounds like a philosophy to me.

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