DEAR JOAN: Almost every day I walk my husky, Jade, past the small, human-made lake at Pleasant Hill's City Hall. We enjoy looking at the ducks, geese, fish and, especially, the turtles.
On a bright sunny day about a week ago, Jade found a small turtle about the size of a silver dollar on the sidewalk in a high foot-traffic area.
As I held tightly onto her leash, I stood there pondering whether I should figure out a way to get the baby back to the water. Suddenly another person swooped in, grabbed the little turtle, dropped the poor thing and picked it up again. She carried it over to a group of excited children. I walked away after suggesting she wash her hands after handling the turtle.
A few days later on a drizzly morning, Jade found a much larger turtle on the grassy area surrounding the pond. Before these two encounters, I had never seen any turtles outside the water. This turtle pulled its head and tail in when Jade sniffed it. We left it alone, figuring it knew what it was doing.
I have two questions. If I had been given the opportunity, what should I have done about the baby turtle? Secondly, where do the turtles lay their eggs?
DEAR DENISE: I talked with Susan Heckly, wildlife rehabilitation director at Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. We aren't sure whether the turtles in that lake are Western pond turtles that are natural to the area or red-eared sliders, former pets that were dumped there.
If they were pets, Heckly says, they shouldn't be there. "Red-eared sliders, the common pet turtle, cause many problems for some of our native wildlife," she says. They out-compete the native turtles for food and habitat, and introduce diseases harmful to the natives.
The turtles are semiaquatic. They spend most of their time in water, and during the colder months they "brumate" at the bottom of ponds. It's not quite hibernating, but they do lower their activity level. When the weather warms, you may see them out of the water, sunning themselves and laying eggs on the banks of lakes and ponds.
The larger turtle may have been doing just that. The little one may have been a recently dumped pet.
You did the right thing by leaving them be. The sliders move well on dry land and handling them can expose you to salmonella. It's not healthy for the turtle, either.
It's best, Heckly says, to leave animals alone unless they are injured. If you are unsure of what to do, call Lindsay or any of the other Bay Area wildlife rescue groups for advice or help. We have a great list of groups on our online Pets and Wildlife page, along with contact information.
No worries here
A friend flagged a Facebook post for me about a terrible and terrifying spider that lurks under toilet seats and bites its victims in a most inappropriate place, killing them within days.
Fortunately, this is an urban legend, and of all the things we have to worry about these days, a deadly spider under the toilet seat is not one of them. Unless you are using an outhouse in the woods.
While some spiders prefer dark places, the constant spray from flushing and all of the activity in a public toilet isn't a place a spider is going to hang out.
The spider in this story is real. The Telamonia dimidiata jumping spider is less than an inch long. It is native to Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Singapore.
Better yet, it's not the least bit poisonous to humans.
Contact Joan Morris at email@example.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.