I had hoped to find this increasing rare animal on my hike in Lake Anna State Park last Sunday, because I have seen them near there. Over the years, I have seen more black bears on hikes than this shy and slow creature. So I decided to write about this animal anyway, since I could have seen one. I kept looking for one as I walked along, at any rate.
I have a backbone, like you.
I hibernate in the winter.
I am cold blooded, unlike you.
I am an omnivore, but eat more plant material than animal.
I have a pretty long life - averaging 50 years if I survive to adulthood - if I have enough undisturbed habitat.
Although there are things that would like to eat me, I don't have a lot of enemies in the natural world - once I am big enough. But in your world, cars and habitat destruction are mortal enemies, and something I have no defense against.
My ancestors were on our lovely green and blue planet 230 million years ago. That is before the dinosaurs and so long before humans that we won't even discuss it. I've been here at least five million years, by the way.
Most of you would have no desire to eat me, but if you ever do, watch out! I love mushrooms, including kinds that will kill you, and the toxins can linger in my flesh. What don't you eat a nice salad instead?
Most of my relatives live in water, but I live exclusively on land. I might often be near water, though.
People often will collect me as a pet if they find me. But if you do encounter me, please leave me in my native habitat.
Like knights of old, I have armor. Unlike knights of old, I stay away from horses and won't try to impale you with a sword. You would call my armor a shell.
There are four species of me, all in North America.
One of my close relatives (the wood turtle) who also lives on land, is partially protected by his armor, too. But if he is unlucky enough to be caught by a raccoon, the raccoon is likely to chew his legs and feet. Not me - I can fully protect myself by closing my shell tight like a box.
I close my shell with hinges on the bottom near the front and back.
Figure it out?
I am a box turtle! (Photo taken in Dutch Gap Conservation Area in 2008)
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