The circumstances under which Yertle showed up are a bit mysterious. Someone came to the door a couple weeks ago and when my sister opened the door, the visitor said she had the wrong house. Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked, "Hey, did you know you have a turtle in your yard?" So, who knows if the turtle showed up on his own or if the visitor left him there.
Yertle munching freeze-dried crickets. That's good eatin'!
My sister and her boyfriend immediately began doing research about box turtles. The oogiest tidbit they learned: "Female box turtles are capable of storing sperm from one mating for up to four years. This allows them to lay eggs for several seasons without mating. " [Proof that I did not make this up.]
After a day or two, my sister got in touch with a local reptile rescue person. The rescue chick was pretty hardcore. "If you keep him, you are slowly killing him," she told my sis. "You need to release him so that he can continue on to where he was headed." Now, it is not like Yertle had a "Bethesda or bust!" sign taped to the back of his shell. My sister and her family live in the suburbs of DC, where soul-crushing traffic is the norm. There is no "wild" nearby to speak of, where one might release a wayward turtle (unless you count the thicket of four trees across the street). The road that runs past their house is quite busy, and they don't particularly want to explain to the kids later on why there are pieces of Yertle all over the street. There is a small park/playground in the neighborhood, but we can just picture Yertle meeting his maker when some big industrial mower comes through to cut the grass.
For now, the ethical dilemma continues. Do they release him or continue to look after him? He seems content for the moment. He buries himself in the mulch, but comes up rapidly when offered crickets, meal worms, or corn on the cob (no kidding!). They leave out a tray of water for him, and he always poops in it before drinking out of it (which is oddly endearing, believe it or not).
To test out the theory of "where he was headed," we set him down in the yard (outside the fenced area) a few days ago. Yertle turned and marched very purposefully . . . towards the house. We repeated the experiment several times and he headed for the bricks every time. What would you do?