Turtles Go Walkabout
One of the more unexpected visitors to the backyard during summer is the long-necked or snake-necked turtle Chelodina longicollis, one of 25 Australian turtle species.
Turtles hibernate during winter and the summer rains are their cue to haul themselves out of their creeks and ponds and lumber off to find food.
Turtles move about the landscape in groups of up to several dozen. Heavy rains can trigger this migration as can their home creek or lake drying up. They are vulnerable to being run over whilst out and about.
You may find a turtle has taken up temporary residence in your garden pond, resting and feeding before moving on. Turtles can walk up to a kilometre a day in their hunt for their favourite foods: molluscs, crustaceans, tadpoles, and insects.
But your resident turtle may be doing more than just having a snack: it may also be planning to start a family! If so, you’ll see it dig a deep hole before laying about 10 eggs which hatch up to four months later.
DID YOU KNOW? Long-necked turtles are extremely tough, sometimes living in some pretty unappealing places, such as polluted creeks and even sewage treatment plants. Like their distant relatives the crocodiles, they can also survive horrific injuries and infections, such as near-total loss of the shell, thanks to an unusual immune system.
TIP If you find a turtle on the road and want to rescue it, be careful how you pick it up. Armed with defensive scent glands above each leg, turtles can squirt a liquid with a stinking and persistent odour. The best way is to pick them up by the shell and hold them well away from you so the liquid doesn’t touch you. Don’t, whatever you, do put them in the car - the smell can take months to get out of the seat-covers!