I’d like you to meet Nebo, a box turtle. He’s different from other box turtles because he was injured somehow. He has only one front foot. A family found him, and they take care of him. He has a shell on top of his body and a smaller one underneath. His head, legs, and tail stick out of openings between the two shells. If Nebo becomes cold, sleepy, or frightened, he pulls his head, legs, and tail inside his shell.
We don’t know exactly how old Nebo is, but we can get some idea by counting the growth rings on his shell. Often though, after about fifteen years of age, the rings blend or are worn off. We do know that turtles have a longer life than most animals. Nebo could easily live to be more than fifty years old.
All spring and summer Nebo lives in his “summer camp” behind the house. He has plenty of water to drink, but he doesn’t need a pond to swim in because he is a land turtle. His adopted family feeds him his favorite foods—earthworms, strawberries, lettuce, ham, cheese, mushrooms, and hamburger. Nebo has no teeth, but his jaws have sharp edges.
When it starts to get cold in the fall, Nebo is ready to go to sleep for the winter. Because of the turtle’s injury, the family worries that he might not be able to dig a hole to hibernate in. So they take him to school!
In the first grade classroom he has a cozy home all ready for the winter. The children prepared it for Nebo. The whole class took a walk behind the school and gathered dried grass, leaves, and a couple of rocks to put in the glass tank where Nebo will live.
In the middle of winter, Nebo gets very sleepy, and although he doesn’t hibernate completely, he spends most of each day dozing. He doesn’t eat very much, and he burrows under the grass and leaves to make a little nest.
When spring comes and the ground is warm and the nights are no longer frosty, Nebo goes back to his family and his outdoor life. He’s really hungry and eats everything given to him. He sits on a rock and soaks up the warm sunshine, and he walks around in his water dish to cool off when it gets very hot. When the children walk by, he sticks up his long neck and looks at them with his bright red eyes.