The Resident Turtles at Baltimore Woods

Week of September 25, 2022 – October 1, 2022

Bridget Jones staff member and Environmental Educator

by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator

If you’ve gone hiking at Baltimore Woods, you know that the Preserve is a great place to see animals of all shapes and sizes, from birds and mammals to reptiles and amphibians. But did you know that the Baltimore Woods Interpretive Center is home to several animals as well? Our resident animals inside the building help students and members of the public learn about nature even when going outside isn’t an option. 

Fern the Wood Turtle lives in the Interpretive Center’s Program Room and loves to greet visitors. Fern is likely around 40 years old. She began her life at Baltimore Woods when her previous owner could no longer care for her. In the wild, Wood Turtles live along creeks and streams and will travel to wooded habitats in the summer. They are omnivores, eating a diet of leaves, flowers, fruits, mushrooms, and small animals such as insects, snails, and slugs. They are thought to be very intelligent: a study conducted in the 1930s showed that Wood Turtles could navigate laboratory mazes about as successfully as rats. They are also very adaptable, moving between stream and forest ecosystems throughout their lives.

While you may have met Fern before, you might not know that the Center is also home to three Box Turtles named Geronimo, Lucy, and Mr. T! Unlike Fern, these turtles don’t usually see visitors to Baltimore Woods; instead, they visit students in the Syracuse City School District as part of  the Baltimore Woods Nature in the City program and sometimes visit local libraries. The Box Turtles came to Baltimore Woods after being rescued by the DEC from illegal trade operations. Box Turtles live in forest and meadow environments and eat fruits, mushrooms, insects, slugs, and worms. True to their name, when Box Turtles feel threatened, they can close a hinge on the bottom of their shells like a box! Box Turtles are extremely long-lived, with some individuals reaching 100 years old. Compared to this long lifespan, the Baltimore Woods Box Turtles are fairly young: Geronimo is likely in her early teenage years, while Lucy and Mr. T are in their twenties. 

Unfortunately, both Box and Wood Turtles face declining populations in the wild. They are species of Special Concern in New York State, and Box Turtles are federally listed as endangered in the U.S. Both species suffer from loss of habitat and collection by humans. Restoring their populations will require working to protect the habitats they call home and respecting these turtles’ space as wild animals. By acting as ambassadors to visitors and students, our resident turtles are helping to spread the word about the importance of protecting these incredible species.

For more information on all of our resident animals, please check out our website! https://baltimorewoods.org/animal-residents-at-the-woods/ 

We invite our members to enjoy a weekly blog written by our naturalists. Every blog will be uniquely different but always inspired by nature. We may share a memory from a recent hike at The Woods or teach you about an animal or plant that lives on the preserve. No matter the topic, we will be sharing with you our passion for nature and celebrating the connections we all have to the natural world. Each blog will be connected to a weekly set of activities and ideas to help you put nature in your hands, even if you’re at home!