Go ahead and add it to my resume, along with “struggling novice winemaker”: “Proprietor: Turtle Sanctuary”.
There is only one freshwater turtle native to California, the Western Pond Turtle. Once found from Western Canada down to Baja, Mexico, a taste for turtle soup back in Victorian days and, more recently, the introduction of the non-native Red Slider Turtle (the kind sold in pet stores) has lead to the Western Pond Turtle’s drastic decline. In May 2002, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed the Western Pond Turtle as being extinct in Canada. There are only isolated pockets of them in Washington and they are almost gone from Oregon. They are headed that way in California, under pressure from aggressive introduced species like the Red Slider and Bullfrogs.
So we were thrilled, that through a naturalist connection of John the Baptist’s, we were allowed to host three rescued Western Pond Turtles in Lake Charles. As natives, they were immediately given native names: the two girls were named after local tribes, Miwok and Pomo. The naturalist warned John that the boy turtle was very stressed and underweight and may very well not make it. To fortify him, we named him after a fierce Northern California warrior, Captain Jack, a Modoc Indian who, with 60 braves, held off more than a thousand members the U.S. Cavalry for a year in what became the most expensive single Indian campaign in U.S. history.
Alas, a name was not destiny in his case. After two weeks, during which John the Baptist, lovingly hand fed him, and he seemed to be steadily gaining weight, I walked out to the pond to see Captain Jack floating lifeless. Nothing in particular seemed to have killed him. He was probably just stressed beyond recovery.
It’s tough out there for a Western Pond Turtle.
However, Miwok and Pomo are thriving. Apparently, our little man-made lake and waterfall are perfect turtle habitat. It’s clean, it’s filled with native plants and fish. And John’s steady decimation of the invasive Bullfrogs with his 22 rifle is keeping Lake Charles a clean, well-lighted place for native turtles. John says his naturalist friend is anxious to give us more rescue turtles, since this is such a perfect breeding spot for them.
So say a brief prayer for poor Captain Jack. He was buried with full native honors, presided over by one of the workers, Pat, who is a Pomo Indian from a local tribe.
Here’s how you can honor Captain Jack. Stop releasing those damned pet store turtles into our waterways! And shoot a bullfrog today!
Don’t forget to scoop out any water hyacinth. That junk is junk.
Sorry Capt. Jack. Your life had purpose.
Water hyacinth GONE. I’ve chronicled the war John and the gang have waged against this noxious invader. We think they’ve finally won. Haven’t seen a shoot for months now.
Too bad, but good to hear you have a great spot for them.
And stop buying pet store turtles!
I saw turtles for sale in local pet food store the other day. Pretty sure they were those red sliders you mentioned. My only thought as I walked by was that it not a good time of year for buying a turtle.
My little brother had a wild one from western Kentucky that he brought with us to Frankfort back in 63. Poor little thing didn’t last very long in captivity.
Daughter found a vet specializing in turtles who taught her how to care for her Kentucky land turtle. They had been doing everything wrong. Her now ex-husband kept a gigantic snapper in a six foot long aquarium in their basement. Not a happy arrangement.
Sorry you lost Capt Jack. Glad the two girls are hanging out okay. One day you will have a colony established there.
How can you get another male for your turtle harem??? Won’t they need a little manly companionship? YOu cuold have a great little breeding program….
The naturalist who originally gave us the turtles gave us another male, a big robust one that we named Solano, after a local seven foot tall INdian chief. Then, within weeks, another female showed up out of the wild. So apparently, he’s pretty studly.