Add it to the list of Things I Never Thought I’d Do With My Children: Watch box turtles mate. And NOT be too embarrassed about it, because I’m here to tell you, turtle mating is NOT very action-packed.
Let me back up.
So when the lady at the pet store tells you, “This three-toed box turtle is a female,” you might want to not take her word as the end-all be-all.
And when the guy at the same pet store swears to you, two years later when you get a second turtle, “This western box turtle is a male,” take it with a grain of salt and maybe choose a non-gender-specific name for the turtle.
And especially when the pet store lady says, when you ask if your two box turtles who live in separate tanks would mate if they were put in together for a while, “Oh, no. Not likely at all. Box turtles generally like to ‘get to know one another’ and be comfortable before anything like that happens,” …she lies.
Here’s what we learned at the Knupp House this week: Scuttle, the three-toed, is in fact a BOY. Zip, the western, is a GIRL. And when Zip’s UV bulb burned out for the second time in a month and we weren’t able to rush to the pet store to get him a new one right away and therefore decided to double them up in Scuttle’s tank for a couple hours a day…yeah. Get to know each other before mating? Pssshaw!
We placed dear Zip (Zipette?) in the center of Scuttle’s 20-gallon tank and (s)he went to the opposite corner from Scuttle. Scuttle’s reaction to the visitor? Neck out! Eyes wide open! Burrow hole ditched! (S)he immediately made her way over to the opposite side of the tank and…mounted Zip.
Not being an expert on turtle mating, I wasn’t sure if (s)he was just being aggressive or if this was indeed the deed. My 12yo son and I watched with wide eyes and several wisecracks for a few minutes. We moved the aggressive one off the other one once. And when we went to move it (because that’s easier than typing (s)he all the time), a second time, they were…um, attached.
Yeah. Turtle romance? Check.
Turtle gender identity crisis? Check.
11yo son in tears because he thought his turtle was a boy and it’s not? Check.
12yo son thinking regretfully about all the times in the past two years he’s called his turtle Scuttle Girl? Check.
As for a turtle pregnancy, only time will tell, I guess. I’ll keep you posted (as soon as I research how the heck you tell if a box turtle is knocked up!)