As new Florida residents my husband and I found ourselves amazed at all the different birds and animals we were seeing every day. One day early on I looked out my kitchen window to see Sandhill cranes right in the back yard, and I watched as they disappeared down the hill to the lake out there. So I grabbed my camera to go take a picture and walked out to the edge of the hill only to see them right in front of me, and when they saw me they started walking towards me. I only clicked one or two photos before I panicked and high-tailed it back into the house with them right behind me. Later I learned that the woman next door used to feed them, which is a no no. But birds like that, that could practically look you in the eye, now that was different.
And then there are the gopher turtles, who have protected status. When you aren’t in a line of traffic stopped to let the Sandhill cranes cross the road then you are liable to be in a line of traffic waiting for a gopher turtle to cross the road. It seems to be an unwritten rule that people stop for the turtles, and someone will usually get out and move them across the street. Moving them in the direction that they were going already, that’s important. Charley took it a step further when we first moved here. If he saw one on the side of the road, but not actually in the road, he’d stop anyhow. He’d pick it up and disappear with it into someone’s back yard. I finally had to ask him what he thought the turtles had done before he moved to FL? Maybe it’s that there are so many retired people here, no one is in such a hurry, so it seems like everyone enjoys seeing the turtles, and are willing to make sure that they don’t get hurt so they don’t mind the wait. But really I hear that you are supposed to let them be. If it is determined that there is a gopher turtle living on a building lot then it’s official policy that the turtle must be removed to an appropriate location before a building permit will be issued. Just one of those FL things.
So this is the guy who was living just down the street from my house. Anywhere you drive you might see a mound of sand at the side of the road and that’s a good indicator that a turtle lives there. The soil isn’t soil, it’s sand, so as they dig out a nice hole for themselves they create the mound of sand. This is the one by my house, and many times as we walked by with the dogs or drove down the road we’d see him munching away on one side of the street or another.
All of this is to say that it was a sad day when I saw that this turtle was dead, had gotten hit by a car. It’s been a couple of months ago now but I would think of him when I’d pass by with the dogs. Maybe that’s why I noticed the action as we approached the hole just recently. First one, then a second, big scoop of sand came flying out of the hole! I so wanted to go look to see if I could see who was moving in, but with two dogs on retractible leashes and a bag of dog poop in my hands I figured my chances of a photo were pretty slim. Besides, he was busy. Let him make his new home just as cosy as he wanted, he would meet the neighbors soon enough…