Bruce really comes alive when he is out and about in the “wild,” which these days basically means his outdoor habitat or in his enclosed backyard play area.
He runs about, climbing and digging and exploring and hunting and hiding and swimming and just generally being a wild box turtle.
I love this! I love it for so many reasons, but especially because of Bruce’s uniquely challenging circumstances.
Box turtles are somewhat unusual in the strength of their homing instinct. A box turtle typically will stay within a two-mile radius of his birth site for his entire life.
Of course, if this box turtle is relocated for any reason, say because someone takes him out of the area to make him into a pet or because there is construction that razes his birthplace and sends him running, he will likely spend his entire life trying to find that same site again.
Box turtles have been tracked in the wild doing just this, to the point where they won’t eat, drink, sleep or mate, running themselves ragged until they simply collapse in exhaustion and die.
This is the saddest thing and I really hate to think about it! It makes my heart hurt so. It is also the reason why, after two years of wrestling and wrangling and consulting with box turtle experts and our veterinarian and other turtle owners, I decided Bruce’s best lifetime home would be here with our little flock rather than out in a wild setting once again.
Because, even if I selected the perfect protected wild spot, such as a wildlife refuge or national park, and set him down there, he wouldn’t stay put. Wherever I might relocate him, he would move out of that area as quickly as possible, on the search for his home turf once more.
This way, with a safe enclosed outdoor habitat and enclosed play area, Bruce can hunt and run about and drink and eat and rest and hibernate and be a box turtle safely and with a family who loves him and doesn’t want to change anything about him.
Right now, we live in a world where box turtles like Bruce have fewer chances and choices and must rely on us to begin to understand our impact on them and what we can do to live and let live. It is a long road we are on, and not likely to end anytime soon.
But for one precious box turtle, at least, it is our little family’s hope that this story has the happiest possible ending.