Just a cute headstart as compensation for the delayed blog!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It’s been a while but I’ve been up to some pretty amazing stuff while saving the world all at the same time. Three weeks ago, we discovered that there were 35 headstarts up in Lake County that needed to be sampled prior to being released so on June 1st, Dr. Laura, Rachel and I drove up and answered their plea for help. And yes, we absolutely crushed it. The following day those little babies were being released out into the wild as a part of Blanding’s conservation efforts! After that exciting day in the “field” (we were inside the entire time so does it really count?), the three of us headed back and spent the rest of the week in the lab. Rachel is absolutely amazing and helped extract many of the cloacal-oral samples that were collected from Turtle Team’s first couple weeks out in the field!



Rachel reading hemacytometer after hemacytometer!

At the end of that hectic week, we discovered that Kane County had an additional “87” headstarts (it ended up being 90 in total) that needed to be sampled and released the following week. We dedicated our Tuesday and Wednesday to helping sample as many headstarts as we could handle in a day so these little nuggets could be released and contribute to the Blanding’s current and future populations! Alexis had completed the physical exams and blood work for 20 of these headstarts the first day and with the help of Kayla, Carley, Dr. Laura, Rachel and I we sampled 50 that Tuesday. On Wednesday, we sampled and ran blood work on the remaining 20. Rachel and I were supposed to be heading home that night to resume animal care and extractions in the lab but we changed our plans and decided to stay, as one does. 🙂 Our reason for staying? Well it certainly wasn’t in an attempt to avoid doing more lab work! Psshhh, no way! We stayed because there was another batch of 35 headstarts arriving on Thursday that needed to be sampled and we were MORE than willing to be of assistance to Kayla and Carley.



The coolest turtle vet and vet students around!

Kayla hard at work collecting tiny swabs from tiny mouths!

Alexis taking measurements and completing physical exams!









And finally what we’ve all been waiting for…well, at least I’ve been waiting, a week of box turtle sampling for turtle team!!

Last week we had been scheduled to head back out into the field with our infamous turtle dogs to sample box turtles. However, due to some extenuating circumstances, this had to be cancelled. But never fear, we still headed out to search for hand-caps instead! Dr. Allender made this a bit more exciting by turning the week into a competition. At the end of the week, the person with the most hand-caps got to pick the place in which we got ice cream and the person with the least hand-caps had to purchase said ice cream for everyone. Hmmm…challenge accepted.


My first hand-cap of the 2021 field season!

On Tuesday, Rachel, Paul, Dr. Allender and I headed to one of our locations in Vermilion County to walk around for 4 hours. Things got off to a pretty quick start with 1 turtle hiding by some downed logs before we even entered the woods. But I personally believe the “hand-cap of the day” was the pair of mating turtles I stumbled upon (see below for proof). After this, I got separated from the group for 30 minutes and tried to listen closely for them talking or breaking sticks but couldn’t hear a thing due to the volume of cicadas humming in the background. This was something I had NEVER experienced prior to this. I was quickly reunited with the group and we stumbled upon a couple more turtles before ending the hike. At the end of day 1 the running totals were: Me-5, Rachel-1, Allender-0 and Paul-0. 


My most memorable hand-cap(s) all week!

The next day we headed down to Forbes, which was the initial location we were supposed to search. We usually have some success here with the dogs and have to limit how many turtles we can sample, however, hand-capping is a different story. We walked around for 4 hours tripping over branches and stumps from all of the trees that had been cut down earlier this year. After getting extremely frustrated and hot in the high temps, we only found 3 turtles at the end of the day. This was not entirely unexpected as turtles prefer to stay burrowed under ground during times like these (me too turtles, me too). So after a slightly disappointing day 2, the running totals are: Kelcie-6, Rachel-2, Allender-1 and Paul-technically 1 as he found a shell that we collected. 



Rachel’s first hand-cap!

We returned to Forbes on Thursday to search a different area with the hopes that day would go better than the previous. Initially the hike felt the same, constantly climbing over downed trees, tripping over stumps, and finding no turtles. But this day turned around pretty rapidly. Dr. Allender found 3 turtles up front which, I’m not going to lie, it made me a bit nervous as he started catching up to my running total and that is absolutely unacceptable. However, I stepped up my hand-capping game and finished strong. I really wanted to solidify my lead going into Friday so I made sure to find a turtle or 2 on the hike back to the truck. 🙂 Paul found his first live hand-cap and it was a new turtle that was estimated to be about 80 years old! The best hand-cap of day 3! Day 3 running totals are: Kelcie-11, Rachel-3, Dr. Allender-4, and Paul-1 (technically 2). 


Paul’s first (live) hand-cap!

On our final day, we were heading to a location which is known to not have many turtles. With the dogs helping us search, finding 6 turtles at this location is a GREAT day so we didn’t have super high hopes. However, we had neglected to consider my superior hand-capping skills (haha) as I happened to stumble upon a turtle wandering behind a large tree. This gorgeous male turned out be recaptured turtle from previous years so out of curiosity, we looked back and found that he was initially captured in 2012 and then again in 2014. He hadn’t been captured since so it was nice to chat and catch up about all his previous adventures! We finished the rest of the hike with no luck but finding just 1 turtle had made the day a success. At the end of the week our running totals were: Kelcie-12, Rachel-3, Allender-4 and Paul-1 (technically 2). Naturally, we immediately returned home to get our well deserved ice cream from the Custard Cup (thank you Dr. Allender!!).