Turtle tales on the bayou

Des Allemands woman can’t get enough of her half-shelled friends

By Heather R. Breaux

May 13, 2009 at 2:52 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Turtle tales on the bayou
If you know Des Allemands resident Lois Bernard, then you’re sure to have heard about her love for turtles.

Simply put, it’s nine average-sized, red-eared sliders that bring a smile to her face.

Katrina, the oldest of the bunch, pulls seniority at 5 years old and weighs in as the largest of the group.

“I found Katrina on the banks of Bayou Des Allemands right around the time Hurricane Katrina hit,” said Bernard. “I fell in love with her from the moment I saw her, and I even took her with me when I evacuated.”

Rounding out the nine are Opal, Lucky, Turbo, Jade, Garnet, Mee Mee, and twins Jack and Jill.

“I came across most of them right here in Des Allemands during the summer months,” added Bernard. “But it was my mom who hatched me Jack and Jill last year.”

Bernard says that her turtles enjoy indulging in a variety of foods, including raw ground beef, raw potatoes, bologna, chicken, corn, green beans and lettuce.

“The smaller turtles prefer to eat the strips of bologna because it is soft and the larger ones like Katrina love to eat chicken,” she said. “But they all eat green beans.”

Telling the turtles apart is a snap for Bernard. After all, can’t all mothers?

“Each of them have their own unique markings,” she added. “And they are all different sizes. They’re my babies and I know each and every one of them.”

Bernard also bathes her reptile friends at least three times a week.

“I use a toothbrush to scrub their shells under the water from the faucet in the kitchen sink,” said Bernard. “Each turtle has their own personal toothbrush and they love to splash around. I even put them in the bathtub sometimes so they have a larger area to play in. And they love to have their necks scratched.”

When it’s not feeding or bathing time, the turtles spend most of their time in a 30-gallon aquarium complete with hide-out spots and basking water.

“I don’t like to feed then in the aquarium. That’s where they get to relax and bake in the sun near the window,” Bernard continued.

Bernard keeps a close eye on her sliders, but says that one has gotten away a time or two.

“I was bathing them in the kitchen and Turbo got out of the bucket,” she said. “I couldn’t find him for three days. When he finally did pop up, he was in a suitcase in my bedroom.”

Red-eared sliders are originally from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. However, they are now found worldwide due to people releasing them into the wild.

Males can reach 7 to 9 inches on average where females reach 7 to 12 inches. Contrary to popular myth, red ear sliders do not stay small if kept in a small enclosure.

In the wild red-eared sliders can live up to 20 years and there have been reports of them living up to 40 years in captivity.

As hatchlings, they are bright green with yellow and red stripes extending from the eye to the ear. As they grow, however, the color will change to a dark green and their colors will fade.




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