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L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 918, April 16, 2017

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Nihon Ishigame Year IV:
Incremental Improvements

by Jeff Fullerton
born2bewild1962@gmail.com

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Late March going into April. Its that time again close to the date when the trio of Japanese Pond Turtles—Mauremeys japonica made their debut in the article Nihon Ishigame: an Outlaw Turtle Keeper Goes Japanese. It was the start of a new direction for an old hobby where I sought to adapt to changes in the laws in order to come clean with the authorities and be able to speak more openly about my accomplishments as well as telling a story that had to be told.

Being of a class of deplorable amateur reptile enthusiasts who were considered deplorable long before the term “deplorables” as a despised voting block was coined; I am eternally grateful to senior columnist and editor of this journal for giving me the opportunity to openly criticize and expose the idiocy and freedom crushing policies of the various wildlife and natural resources agencies—which sadly would never be allowed on hobby related online forums controlled by the Deep Ecology thought police who more or less hijacked these clubs that once belonged to hobbyists—much like the conservation movement that belonged to the hunters and sport fishermen.

I noted in that first article and subsequent ones in this thread the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission always seemed insanely prejudiced against reptile hobbyists. But until recently I never really articulated in depth the absurdity of this prejudice which seems a bit illogical and unfair in comparison to the way other things—the more traditional stuff that wildlife agencies have regulated for decades before mainstream conservationists became interested in reptiles and amphibians.

As for the insane prejudices: it finally donned on me why the agency seemed to have it out for reptile hobbyists. Mainly because they really were never that enthusiastic about dealing with the management of herptiles —so they started consulting or hiring these snooty PHD herpetologists who always wanted to shut the hobbyists down and turn herpetology into the equivalent of bird watching. And there you have it—the reason why an agency that has no problem with people raising everything from bait minnows to white-tailed deer cannot abide anyone farming North American Wood or Eastern Box Turtles. And they are just so entrenched in the agency and it is such a limited pet issue that no one in politics or government is going to do anything about it anytime soon.

So lately—aside from an occasional rant like this one I've been more or less focused on the reboot of an old hobby that has been ongoing now for the last four years with emphasis on incremental improvements now that much of the heavy lifting in the way building new turtle pens is done. Especially after last summer when I refurbished the first nested pen setup originally built in 2014 and construction of a new set a few yards above it. Plus an elaborate rock garden between the two!

That really took up a lot of my time and reinforced my perception as to why we value the fruits of our labors and why taking things from others or involuntary servitude constitute acts of theft. Much like my recent experiences with the near disaster in the attempt to put new gravel on my lane and another downtime with the old Ford because of brake problems—AGAIN!—were good lessons on the Broken Window Fallacy! Whenever there is an unexpected expense imposed on you because of your own errors, an act of Mother Nature or the government—it diverts resources from something else you would rather do—to replace something lost or to comply with changes in regulations or mandates.

The replacement of native turtle species in my collection also involved building new facilities and fits this category somewhat—though many of the projects undertaken were things I would have probably done anyway to upgrade my existing setups.

But after four years of ambitious labor I kind of want to kick back and rest a little and focus more on the sheer enjoyment of what I have so far accomplished and in the meantime take on smaller projects that tie up loose ends on various things.

Last week I started off with the upgrade of first Ishigame pen that was originally the North American Wood Turtle pen built along side the open paddock setup to provide the flock with protection from raccoons at night. In early spring of 2014 I put in a 50 gallon Rubbermaid trough for stream pool habitat with an upper pool of smaller Tuff Stuff tub filled with lava rock and topped with river pebbles to serve as a bio filtration system.

It looked downright spectacular back in the beginning with plantings of dwarf Andromeda bushes and some other plants that eventually languished on the account of suboptimal growing conditions for those species and wear and tear of the turtle traffic. Japanese pond turtles love to bask on the high points provided by clump grasses and sedges and small shrubs in addition to rocks. And they soon trashed most of the plants in their primary enclosure.

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They also ruined all the nice pretty sedges I planted in the new DD built last summer to provide the females with a place more conducive to nesting since the previous season they were dropping their eggs in the water.

Back to the drawing board on that one.

But the pursuit of happiness and better husbandry goes on. Finally after a brief bout of Norseman's Hell that brought a little bit of snow between two stretches of warm spring days I was able to tackle more pond and watercourse maintenance. Mostly in the way of cleaning leaves out of the smaller pools that were not netted and getting Rubbermaid tubs filled and ready for fish.

I also started reporting water lilies and other pond plants and got some of the younger turts outside for at least a few days while it is warm. And I did that with the Chinese Box Turtles which I fed heavily early in the week when it was still in the 70s and then moved them outside. But I'm holding off on the younger JPTs that go into the lower DD. I'm concerned that pen is in a cooler microclimate as it gets shaded by a couple pine trees in the late afternoon as the water remains chilly and the Crocuses in the adjoining part of the rock garden are blooming weeks after the others on the sunnier bank across the watercourse have long faded. I'm waiting until the sun angle and ambient temperatures get a little higher.

I'm probably going to remove those trees eventually.

Other incremental projects on the drawing board include an upgrade of the Florida Box enclosure in the greenhouse and fine tuning the Gulf Coast enclosure. There is also a number of other odd jobs running the gauntlet from revival of the vegetable garden to the restoration of the bank by the driveway that got ripped up last fall. All made possible now that the truck is once again up and running. I found a good mechanic just a short distance away who was able to fix it. Another brake line and it didn't cost as dear as I had been dreading all winter that the issue had been on the back burner.

It was maybe a good thing I had to delay this article which I originally wanted to publish last Sunday; as that was the day of the Westmoreland Reptile Expo. Which I can now include in the article as well.

It was a very good show with an interesting selection of animals as well as dry goods. Plus I found what looks like the ideal cage to be my indoor setup for the Chinese Box Turtles.

Very similar to the Vision Cages I got for snakes and the big one I had customized with baffles as litter dams that also keep the Florida Boxies from scuffing up the plexiglass door panels. That may not be necessary with these —as they have sliding glass doors. And they are a good bit bigger.

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Five by two feet—which pretty decent leg room in comparison to a three foot long plastic cement mixing tray setup. And maybe even better than the Vision Cage—so if I like this new one it may very well become the standard for quartering my turts indoors in the winter time. I am frugal when I have to be —but I like to have a reptile room that looks professional so the day the bucket heads come a calling to pry it from my cold dead hands they'll at least be impressed by my tastes and talent. LOL. The price is decent for a much heavier PVC structure and I could see at least 3 of them nested on a table or shelf for the Florida Boxies, CBTs and Guerrero Wood Turtles—like the one I had many years ago and never imagined seeing again until I found some at the big show in Hamburg last fall!

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Except the price tag was a bit toe curling. Only $500 for one. That's a little less than half the price of Cuora trifasciata —the Golden Coin Turtle that gets ground up into quack cures for cancer and maybe impotence in China! But they are so enchanting and beautiful that it would be worth putting aside some money in the event the opportunity to buy one presents again. And like the Kuwangtungs the price might come down in the future.

If there is a future. With some of the latest news I have my doubts. More often than not I'd rather spend a day at the pond.fs Sometimes even a short while sitting on the edge of one of the turtle pens petting the cat and admiring the scenery while the waterfalls gurgle in the background is enough to recharge me. Like at the end of the last two daylight shifts which left me with barely enough daylight to barely eyeball things.

Still much to be thankful for in the way of decent shirtsleeve weather that isn't sapping my resources and personal staminau in the way of reloading firewood at the end of a long day. And a number of other things I'm too tired to articulate after another long day as I try to wrap this story up. I'd like to cover more material so maybe a sequel will be necessary.

Hopefully I'll be better rested and has something even better to write about.

End Notes

In the 1970s when the ecology crusade became all the rage; there was concern regarding wholesale harvesting of reptiles and amphibians from wild populations for the pet trade and even biological supply houses—like the Leopard Frogs many of us used to dissect and even vivisect in high school and college for comparative anatomy lessons. And I never saw it but I heard that commercial collectors used to harvest Blandings Turtles and a giant salamander Cryptobranchus alleghenensis—more popularly known as the Hellbender which I had a hard time wrapping my mind around in my younger days because you would think that frogs aside from being more abundant are a better subject because of their similarity to a human body than a turtle or a salamander or even fetal pigs!

In response to the above; laws were passed to conserve native species which set bag and possession limits and also prohibited their being sold. With the exception of threatened and endangered species— individuals with a valid fishing license were allowed to collect and possess two of each and it remained that way for some time—until 2005—when the Commission decided to tighten the rules dramatically and sought the token input of hobbyists. They apparently didn't pay much attention to our input as they went ahead and did what they wanted anyway. But in the words of both El Neil and the herpetologist Dick Bartlett: I digress!

Japanese Pond Turtles:

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Franklin the runaway Gulf Coast Box that returned last spring.

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From the Reptile show last Sunday:

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Lotsa hot snakes!

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Baby gators!

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Even the Easter Bunny was there! You'd wonder if he was afraid. Some of the critters might want to eat him—like Athena the 7 foot female Boa constrictor whose tail I found sticking out from behind the cages I was looking at:

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Tail

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Head


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