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Turtle Dreamtime


Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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By John LevellMonday, December 10, 2001

While long winter naps certainly seem appealing, a cold weather snooze lasting some five or six months is just a tad bit excessive. Factor in not a breath of fresh air or single bite of food for the entire duration of this siesta as well, and the concept becomes downright uninviting indeed. This is, however, precisely the prospect confronting turtles here in southeastern Minnesota each and every year.

Like all reptiles, turtles are what zoologists term "ectothermic," a fancy scientific word that when translated basically means "external heat." Although commonly called cold-blooded (in contrast to the internally produced or endothermic heating system of the "warm-blooded" mammals and birds), turtles and other ectotherms like amphibians, fish and insects simply rely on the environment to maintain bodily heat.

Naturally, long-term exposure to freezing conditions would inevitably soon prove fatal to any animal whose body cools as external temperatures fall. Unable to make like a tourist and wing off to more amiable climates like many birds, cold-blooded animals must instead find some frost-proof haven in order to survive the rigors of harsh northern winters. For local turtles these winter retreats are almost invariably the unfrozen bottoms of rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. There, within the sanctuary provided by muskrat burrows, sunken trees or just burrowed into the mud, our turtles sleep the cold days away.

Although some species are more cold tolerant than others, a winter dormancy lasting from late October to early April is normal for even the hardiest of regional turtles. For the majority of this period many will remain securely locked within what amounts to little more than a cold, dark, wet, and completely ice-blanketed tomb.

Really hardy species, Snappers and Painted Turtles for example, are occasionally seen moving about sluggishly under the ice but most turtles spend much of the winter in a state of suspended animation most commonly called hibernation. While in this state of cold-induced torpor, heart rate, respiration, and brain activity all slow to almost imperceptible levels. Whether enduring this condition for days, weeks or months, hibernating turtles remain tightly withdrawn inside of their shells, unmoving and almost lifeless, never rising to the surface to breathe.

While the mechanisms that enable air-breathing animals to stay submer .....
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Questions from the Neighborhood...

Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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Virginia CooperMonday, January 28, 2002

Why do people wrap small trees? I planted some fruit trees last fall and didn't wrap them, should I?

Young, thin-barked trees are wrapped for two reasons. Firstly to protect them from mice, voles ..... 
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The Compass Never Tells the Truth

Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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By Wayne PikeMonday, January 14, 2002

I am somewhat skeptical of those directional compasses that you buy to keep in the car. My grandfathers compass that he had in his 19 Ford was the last one that I knew of that worked properly, with the po ..... 
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What about Fillmore County?

Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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Monday, December 24, 2001

When I arrived at my office last Monday, there was a copy of the Sunday Winona Daily News waiting for me in the entry way. Under a front page story Published farm subsidies stir up debate, which listed the top 20 Wi ..... 
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Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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Submit a Letter to the Editorhere

Fri, Jan 25th, 2002
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Journal Policy on Letters to the Editor

The Journal welcomes letters to the editor, with priority given to letters on topics of local interest. No form-letters to the editor are knowingly published.

All printed letters to the ..... 
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