The Oldest Creature at Lakeside Nature Center

Perhaps you’ve seen her reaching for water, stretching or hiding under a log in her display.  Wilma is Lakeside Nature Center’s 68 year old Ornate Box Turtle. 

She was found when she was just a hatchling turtle by a young couple.  They took her home with them.  They housed her and took good care of her—offering her fresh water and some variety of foods, including dog food.  Often during the warm months of the year, the young couple took the turtle outdoors for fresh air and sunshine.  They did this good care for the turtle for 50 years.

Then the young couple was much older.  They began to have health problems and couldn’t always take such good care of the turtle.  It was harder for them to give her a good choice of foods.  It was harder for the people to take the turtle outdoors during warm weather.  The turtle developed problems from not getting a good variety of food.  She had signs showing she had not had enough calcium in her foods.  She was dehydrated.  Her nose had swollen shut.

That’s when a neighbor of the couple learned about the turtle and brought her to Lakeside Nature Center.  She was 60 years old in 1998!

Naturalist s at Lakeside Nature Center helped the turtle to heal from all the problems she had developed.  They decided to let the turtle live the rest of its life at Lakeside Nature Center.  And they decided to name her “Wilma” after a character in the historic Flintstones cartoon.

“Wilma” has lived long in the care of people.  To do that she needs a variety of good foods, fresh water, warmth and sunlight.  She either needs to hibernate underground outside in winter or feel her home space to be as warm as a summer day all winter long.

Turtles don’t live long or healthy lives if people keep them inside their homes without taking good care of them.  Lakeside Nature Center naturalists know a lot about keeping turtles healthy.  If you have any questions about what turtles need to be healthy and live long lives, please call Lakeside Nature Center at 816-513-8960.

(Story by Susan Macdonald Bray, Naturalist at Lakeside Nature Center; Photo by Debby Barker, FOLNC volunteer)