Turtles and Persimmons
October 18, 2023
It’s well known among catfish aficionados that persimmons will catch a bucketful of the opportunistic, gill breathing, bony fish. In the fall, if there’s a persimmon tree next to the pond there’s probably a catfish hovering nearby.
I was surprised to learn this past week that besides catfish, aquatic turtles seek out persimmons. Not surprised so much by what they were eating (the persimmons) but by the length in which they’d go to do so.
Sliders (the dominant aquatic turtle in our wetland) will eat most anything. I’ve seen them grazing on everything from grass, cattails, fish, frogs, and even stripping meat from a dead opossum that somehow ended up in the water. They eat it all.
The turtles described here were leaving the security of the water and trekking 25 feet and more to seek out the silky fruit. There are many persimmon trees surrounding our wetland including one next to an octagonal platform halfway down our boardwalk leading to our wetlands. This tree overhangs and drops many fruit onto the boardwalk, but also to the ground below and next to the walkway.
I wondered how the turtles became aware of the fruit so far from the water. Then it struck me. Currently, the water level is extremely low. The “normal” shoreline is only a few feet from the base of the persimmon tree. Many of the persimmons, during a typical fall, would be dropping directly into the water.
The turtles were well aware of the free food falling from the tree’s branches. Cruising by the wetland’s persimmon trees in fall is probably part of their daily foraging routine, at least when there’s water in the wetlands.
Aquatic turtles don’t often expose themselves to the vulnerability of terrestrial travel except during the egg laying season, which is long past (they have to come ashore to lay eggs). I don’t know what goes on in the mind of an aquatic turtle, but the turtles in these photos knew exactly where they were going and thought it worth the risk to venture out and pick some fresh fruit.