It’s the start of monsoon season here in the Sonoran Desert. When the rain begins to fall, the tortoise comes out of her den. Why? Is it because she’s afraid the water will rush into her underground den and fill it up?
No, she comes out because it’s time to drink. The desert tortoise finds a depression in the ground where the water collects. Then she drinks and drinks and drinks until her bladder is full.
I’ve tried putting out dishes of water for my tortoise, but she won’t drink from a source where the water is still. Sometimes, I pretend to be a storm and rain down water from my hose.
It’s a truly wonderful thing when it rains in the desert. We should all be more like the tortoise and go out and drink it in!
If you’d like to know more about tortoises, check out my rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! My tortoise, Myrtle, asked me to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle. She’d finally had enough! She likes her book a lot, perhaps just a smidge more than my young readers!
And check our our workbooks on tortoises and turtles at our Lyric Power Publishing Workbooks page. They are full of information, and have lots of fun activity sheets for kids (and adults like them, too, I’m told!) that help to pass the long summer days.
I travel with my reptiles because I love introducing others to all sorts of reptiles and sharing about mine. I believe it is harder to hate something if you meet it in person. Many people never have a chance to feel the smooth warm scales of a lizard or pick up a tortoise to feel the heft of her shell. I take a variety of reptiles to my talks so people can learn about the different groups.
However, that means I have to get them all to the classroom in one trip. The small box turtles easily fit inside a soft-side pet carrier, but how am I supposed to carry a 130-lb tortoise or a five-foot lizard, like Blue? I not only need something they’ll fit in comfortably, but it also must be convenient to carry, with either wheels or a shoulder strap. Most soft-sided pet carriers just aren’t long enough, even though the tails curl; and the big dog crates don’t have wheels or handles–they’re just big.
I saw this blue carrier for sale and thought it might work for my rock iguana, Blue. As described, it would have room for him with handy handles. And, it was Blue.
However, unlike the smaller pet carriers, it didn’t have a solid bottom, so it wouldn’t work for my large iguanas. So, I folded it up and stuck in storage. I didn’t know what I would use it for, since it wasn’t strong enough to stop a reptile determined to roam, but I just knew it would find a purpose in life.
A few months later, my friend Pam, as she headed out the door, mentioned that she needed a crate for her little dog, Roxie.
I said, “Hold on!” and retrieved the blue carrier.
Pam was thrilled that I just happened to have exactly what she needed and took the carrier home. Roxie is 12 and had never had a “cave,” so Pam wasn’t sure Roxie would use it.
A few days later a thank you note and this picture arrived in my email. She surely looks different than my reptiles do in the carriers, but I’d day the little terrier-mix looks pretty content, wouldn’t you?
I have a bunch of reptiles as pets, or family members actually, in my house. Some of my pets free-roam around my house, like dogs and cats. Some live in their own enclosures with roaming privileges inside and outside. And finally, some live outside all the time because they are natives. With 20-odd reptiles in the household, there will be interactions.
People think reptiles don’t have much personality, but they really do. Each animal is a distinct being with his or her own preferences and level of assertiveness. They are also very intelligent, they know the difference between people, and like to go where they’ve been told not to go. So it should come as no surprise that not all reptiles get along.
It’s to be expected that male iguanas might be aggressive toward each other, so they are kept apart. However, I did not expect the epic battles between Blue Rock Iguana and Duke Sulcata Tortoise. Iguanas fight by biting each on the backs of their necks. So Blue tries very hard to bite Duke’s back, but can’t get his teeth into the hard shell. Normally Duke would ram his opponent, but in this case, he tries to bite Blue back. All Blue has to do is lean to the side. Fruitless battles.
However, some of the reptiles are more effective at keeping Duke in his place. Zoe Desert Tortoise is not delighted when Duke comes outside and visits her yard. She will chase him around, nipping at his back legs. He weighs around 130 pounds, while she tops out at 20.
Zoe does get along with Ela, Desert Box Turtle, even allowing her to share her hibernaculum. And Ela shares Zoe’s defensive tendencies of the yard. Here she is charging at Ezra Green Iguana, when he was just out enjoying some sun. Ezra, who is elderly, had to keep inching away from his attacker.
Lest you think my household is filled with hostility, many of my reptiles get along just fine. The female Red-foot Tortoises find Duke quite attractive, and he likes all females.
Many of the reptiles have formed inter-species friendships, such as some of my tortoises and iguanas. Here are Rose Tortoise, Krinkle Spiny-tail and Ezra Green Iguana sharing some morning sunshine.
I often see photos of cats playing with paper bags and cardboard boxes. Domestic cats, and even tigers, playing with bags and boxes. These objects make great hiding places and objects for pouncing upon, perfect for solitary play. Feline aficionados claim that playing with paper stimulates cat brains.
So, do the attraction and benefits of bags and boxes prove true for tortoises, as well? I keep a bag of paper bags beside my refrigerator. This proves irresistible to my free-roaming tortoises.
They knock it over, crawl inside, pull the other bags out and slide them around the kitchen, having a great time for hours. However, their enjoyment of paper products is not limited to bags. Boxes are also great fun.
Crawling into boxes can be a solo or a group activity. I have them placed in corners around my house so they don’t get bored with limited locations. This also helps in preventing wall damage when they feel like digging a den.
I’d never thought my tortoises played before I put cardboard boxes on the floor. Now they spend their days romping in bags and boxes just like cats!
Publisher’s Note: Following are comprehensive supplemental workbooks for children , Pre-K thru 1st and 2nd-4th grade, all about tortoises. Keep summer boredom at bay with the many fun and interesting pages and projects inside our workbooks. Today is a good day to learn all about tortoises and help keep your children’s reading, vocabulary and math skills fresh.
That’s because I share my home with box turtles, Trevor And Ela. I’ve had Trevor (Terrapene carolina) for a long time. He was given to me by a co-worker when I lived on the East Coast. He had been passed from family to family to family. She gave him to me to stop the passing. She knew I’d keep him. But I did contact the state about what I should do with him, since he could be a native. Because it could not be determined where he was from, I was told to keep him in captivity. I tried to donate him to a breeding program for his happiness, but he was from the wrong state as far as we could tell. So when I made the cross-country move, Trevor came with me.
I’d been in Tucson for several years, when I was asked to take in a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle(Terrapene ornata luteola). She had been kept in captivity and needed a new home. Fortunately, I have a secure back yard, so Ela joined my Sonoran Desert Tortoise in the backyard. They even brumated together.
Even though Trevor and Ela are both box turtles, they are very different. Trevor’s favorite food is snails, while Ela wants nothing to do with them. They do both enjoy a juicy strawberry.
Have you ever wondered why they are called box turtles? Unlike most turtles which have a sleek shell, streamlined for swimming, the box turtle has a high dome, more like a tortoise. This reflects their more terrestrial lifestyle. With no water to escape into, box turtles have developed a different defense against predators. Box turtles have a hinge on the bottom shell, the plastron. Not only can they pull their head, limbs and tail inside but they close up the shell to form a “box.” It’s much harder to find a bit to eat when your meal is hidden inside a hard shell.
Because tortoises are free-roamers, they help with designing interior décor. Their specialty seems to be rearranging.
My desk chair is on wheels, a very practical design for me. However, sometimes I’m typing on my laptop when I feel the chair moving away from the table. Myrtle Red-foot Tortoise has put her head underneath the wheel frame and is pushing. She’s strong enough to move the chair with me on it! If I’m not sitting on the chair, I see it moving across the room.
And it’s not just my chair that moves. The iguana enclosure in the
front room is also on wheels. I find Calliope rolled across the room. She probably enjoys the change of scenery.
The red-foots are reasonably sized tortoises. Sulcata or African spur-thighed tortoises (Geochelone sulcate) like Duke tend to fall on the large side of the scale. He’s currently 120+ lbs. The impressive spurs on Duke’s forearms are used for protection, but also for digging through hard ground to create underground dens. Those spurs are also very effective in digging through dry wall, doors, and pretty much anything he wants to get through. Sulcatas can dig dens that are 30 feet long and 20 feet deep.
Duke lives in the reptile room along with iguanas housed in wire
enclosures. I have put the enclosures on
wheels so Duke can roll them around as opposed to knocking them over. People
wonder why the stuff in the room is arranged as it is – because that’s the way
Duke wants it. He has created his own
den areas and even cleared a basking spot.
I love the adventures (and the occasional mystery or two!) and wouldn’t have it any other way.
LPP NOTE: Because Myrtle’s name rhymes with turtle, she was often called Myrtle the Turtle. One day, she asked Elaine to write a book about the difference between turtles and tortoises. The result is a favorite rhyming book of little ones, Don’t Call Me Turtle!Did you know there are at least ten differences between them?
Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh Vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.
I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.
Above is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.
Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.
To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas.
I’ve taken care of Ms. Powers home and reptiles when she travels for a couple of years now. They all answer to their names and I know each of them personally, though I’m closer to some than to others. Chile, a reddish green iguana is young and pretty skittish. He was very nervous about me when he first came to live with Elaine, but after a while, he realized I was delivering daily deluxe salads and he stayed in one place as I set his salad plate inside his enclosure.
Though he ate his salad every day,
I never saw him eating. It didn’t matter how many times I walked into the room,
he was never near his food dish—but the food had disappeared.
I’m thinking, “Gumby arms?” And I decided to become a stalker.
Chile, the stalkee, however, did not cooperate, EVER. Food gone every day with no chewing action witnessed by me.
One day, I crept around the corner and HE HAD GREENS hanging from his mouth. I spun and ran for my phone camera. I KNEW I would be too late, but he was in the same spot. I slowed, acting casual, pretending like I didn’t see him. Then I snapped his picture! I was so proud of my stalking, I texted it to Elaine. She was proud of me, too. 😊
A few days later, I walked into the room and Chile was chomping away at his salad. I thought of my camera, he looked up at me, and improbable as it sounds, he sent me a thought: “I LET you see me eating. You’re a really bad stalker. Take another picture if you want.”
So, I did.
But never again will I stalk an iguana. They’re just too dang smart.
Lyric Power Publishing offers student workbooks and activity sheets for teachers, tutors and home schooling parents. One of them is a workbook all about the amazing creatures we call iguanas.
Trevor is a male Eastern box turtle and Myrtle is a female red-foot tortoise. Myrtle is at least four times bigger than Trevor. Being a tortoise, she has a dense shell, while Trevor’s—though domed—is very lightweight. Trevor has a crush on Myrtle: She’s older, gorgeous, interested in what’s going on around her and interesting.
Trevor may be small, but he is determined. He seeks Myrtle as his mate. Myrtle, of course, cannot be bothered. He’s a small box turtle, for Pete’s sake! Trevor apparently believes that persistence will pay off and likes to follow her closely. When he gets too close, Myrtle usually wanders off, but if Trevor really annoys her, she turns around and flips him onto his back. And there he rocks with his flailing legs.
Now, Myrtle could just walk away, allowing Trevor to right
himself, but she doesn’t. She enjoys spinning Trevor around and around, like he
is a top!
This slows Trevor down for a while—but, as we all know, the heart wants what the heart wants. 😊
Green iguanas are tree dwelling lizards. They are very good climbers and will climb on anything to get to a high location, like book shelves, windows and heads—and by heads, I mean mine. People often ask me why I don’t have pierced ears. It’s because when climbing to the top of my head, the iguanas use my ear lobes as convenient toe holds. My lobes have been ripped open three times by long claws attached to strong leg muscles. I don’t want them to have an existing ear-hole for better ripping.
I often find my iguanas hanging out on top of window blinds, display cases or on my piano. When I want to find them, I know to look up, since the iguanas are usually nestled among the display items. Interestingly, the green iguanas can climb over breakable objects without disturbing them, but if they know you are coming to pick them up, they’ll send everything flying with a swoosh of their tails!
The most impressive climbing was done by my iguana, Algae. Being a young iguana, she had sharp, pointed claws. One day, I looked all over the house but couldn’t find Algae. Had she gotten out or slipped down a vent somehow? After searching everywhere I thought she could possibly hide, I looked up.
She was hanging upside down from the ceiling! After the surprise passed, I have to say that I was very proud of my young friend, Algae.
Learn about our latest science-based children’s books and workbooks. Read here about reptiles, birds, cats in a variety of locations. Read the blog to learn how the books come to be, what inspires an author to write, and many more interesting aspects of the publishing business.
Fill in the box below and we will add you to our email list.
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.