Terrapene nelsoni klauberi
Sonora, Mexico. August 21, 2011
CJ and I had just released a blacktail rattler at its capture point near the Chihuahuan border and were heading back towards Yecora, when we spied a familiar shape crossing the road – a box turtle! I hit the brakes and we grabbed it before it could scoot off into the brush or get hit by another vehicle. It was a female, and she was missing parts of her scutes in several places, exposing white bone – life was no easier for box turtles in the Sierra Madre than it was in the forests of Indiana or on the plains of Kansas. The local name for this species was tortuga de chispitas, which referenced the small yellow spots on the head, carapace, and plastron. Chispitas translates as ‘little sparks’ or perhaps ‘sparkles’. Another good name might be tortuga de montaña – these turtles are rarely found at low altitudes in the Sierra Madre Occidental. Our specimen was ambling along at just over 1400 meters.