Stinkpot or musk turtles can be found in soft-bottomed ponds and lakes in the eastern half of the United States. A small, drab turtle, stinkpots grow to five or six incheslong and may live twenty to thirty years in the wild. The young have two prominent yellow stripes on their heads. These turtles are known for their curiosity. They steal the bait off fishermen’s hooks, they occasionally climb trees to bask, and they are drawn to investigateanyone or anything that enters their pond. They are also known for their readiness to bite and are often mistaken for baby snapping turtles. However, if a personal relationship is established, these turtles will waylay a swimmer, tap her arms or legs to get her attention, climb over her, or just play.
Stinkpots are omnivorous. They walk along the bottom of ponds eating worms, shoots, fly larvae, shellfish and drowned bugs. In spring, the females lay eggs on the shore which hatch in late summer. As winter approaches, they move into the shallows and bury themselves in the mud where they remain until spring. They breathe enough through their skin to stay alive. Stinkpots are declining and are listed as species of concern in several states. It is illegal to capture them as pets in New England.
Susan Baur is a writer and clinical psychologist on Cape Cod. She first encountered Daphne and Chloe in 2004, and has continued to record her observations of them and a dozen others ever since. This is her second children’s book.
Each picture is a collage made up of photographs taken with a digital camera built into a dive mask. These, and a few above-water shots, were combined and drawn on with regular and colored pencils. There is no computer manipulation.