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Observing the ways of nature
Alligator Terrapin
A sketch of an alligator terrapin. - photo by Photo provided

The subject of the week in our community is certainly the weather that is extremely hot for June with a severe drought. We all need rain and desire cooler more seasonal temperatures. The heat exacerbates the drought. As my great uncle Herbert Reisser stated, “It will rain when the dry spell is over.”

Recently on an evening ride through the fields, my father pointed out the trail visible in this photo. He explained details of the multiple trails across the fields sometimes even crisscrossing. All of them were coming from a wooded area with a bay or low place where water accumulated most of the time. Due to this severe drought, those areas have all dried out and the wildlife has fled to hunt water.

This is the trail of an alligator terrapin. A terrapin is any of a species of tortoises living in fresh and brackish waters, according to the dictionary.  There are many different terrapins, many so named for their coloring underneath. We know these species also as snapping turtles. I always heard if a snapping turtle bit you “it would not let go ‘til sundown.” The alligator terrapin is also a source of food. Turtle soup is quite a delicacy for some.

As you studied the trails across the field, all came from the swampy, low bays which have dried up. The many trails across two fields all led to the fish pond where the terrapins were headed to live in the waters there. It is in the nature of survival that these turtles can cross land to get to a new water source for their survival. These are the same turtles that we often see sunning up on pond stumps and logs.

Several pond owners all note that they have many trails going into their ponds including snake trails. Water snakes and moccasins are leaving dried up creeks or bays and also are seeking other water sources in which to live.

Many animal footprints are visible in the mud near the ponds where they have come for drinking water when many of their normal water sources dry up. Raccoons, deer, coyotes, foxes and possums are all in pursuit of drinking water.

Be careful in this dry, hot climate to not get in the way of the numerous poisonous snakes lurking around. Also, watch out for the hidden dangers of insects, such as the hornets in this nest growing in the pear tree. In the meantime we all pray for and anticipate some good cooler rainy days.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: