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Nature & You: What's a mud turtle to do?

A yellow mud turtle will feel right at home when spring rains make a muddy mess. [Jupiterimages]
A yellow mud turtle will feel right at home when spring rains make a muddy mess. [Jupiterimages]

One of my favorite sayings is "making hay while the sun shines."

It's indicative of farmers making adjustments to their work schedules in order to take full advantage of prevailing weather conditions. It'll probably come as no surprise to you that central Oklahoma's wild turtles behave in much the same way.

One extraordinary example is the yellow mud turtle. As the name implies, they live in wet, muddy places. You can expect them to be out and about when the spring season's rainy weather is the norm. All of us know, however, that spring rains eventually come to an end, and then we experience the brutal, hammer-on-an-anvil heat of the summer season. Ponds and puddles dry up. The mud turtle's home turns into a large, sun-baked brick.

The yellow mud turtle solves this thorny problem by burrowing down into what little mud remains, and then the turtle goes to sleep — for a very, very long time. In fact, they don't come out of their slumber until the spring rains come back the following year.

Honest! It's a documented fact! I realize that it stretches our imagination, but yellow mud turtles are masters of central Oklahoma's peculiar weather vagaries.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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