|Gopher turtle mounds near Navarre FL|
I remember some of the stories my former father-in-law told about Depression Days when turtles were coveted as food. He claimed that the family would save up enough money to buy a little gasoline to run their Model T, not to make a trip, but to putt-putt through the woods and scare up turtles so that the family could have meat for supper. Juanita said that a favorite recipe among country folk was turtle meat stewed down with onions and seasonings to serve over rice.
I love turtles and believe that when they appear, they bring good fortune. A few years ago, I wrote a blog about a box turtle that appeared in my yard at Sewanee – a specimen that had the #1 marked on its shell. The following day another turtle of the same species appeared with the #2 on its shell. “Now,” I told my readers, “if a turtle with the #3 imbedded in its shell had shown up, I’d have been spooked, but these two turtle sightings completed the show.” I wasn’t tempted to stew them or to play the lottery using the numbers, but the sight of turtles with numbers for markings did give me a start.
Gopher turtles were known as “Hoover chickens” during the Great Depression, but hunting them in Florida and other southern states is now forbidden as they’re an endangered species. Developers in Florida are required to temporarily move populations when they begin development of land for subdivisions. Floridians regard the Gopher turtle highly and designated it as Florida’s state reptile.
So far, I’ve only seen the turtles’ burrows, which I’m told often reach a depth of nine feet and which protect them from coons, skunks, foxes and other predators – and, I might add, curious investigators like me.