Turtle tales told in Snohomish

SNOHOMISH — Blake Siegert was clearly into turtles.

In less than an hour, the second grader snapped 44 photos of turtles who spent their Sunday afternoon peering out at dozens of children and grown-ups who found their way to the Snohomish Library to learn more about the shelled creatures.

Blake, 8, who attends the Maplewood Parent Cooperative in the Edmonds School District, was drawn to mud turtles, particularly a Mississippi mud turtle who made a cameo appearance at a free event for those curious about the lives of the pokey reptiles.

“You know, it’s got two hinges, which is pretty interesting,” Blake said.

Indeed, the mud turtle is double-hinged, unlike other turtles that have a single hinge on the flat belly-side of their shells. It gives it the ability to close its entire body into the shell.

Thayer Cueter, a veterinary technician and a herpetologist, shared lots of turtle facts while introducing several species that make their home at the Just Frogs Toads Too And Friends! Amphibian Center in Edmonds. The non-profit center is a permanent home for frogs as well as the turtles. It’s also an educational resource and a retail outlet.

Before her Turtle Time presentation was over Sunday, many of the youngsters were able to tell a boy turtle from a girl turtle with a quick inspection. Males, they learned, were the ones with the longer nails and tails.

Cueter introduced several turtles to the standing-room-only gathering.

Each turtle has a story.

There was Dean, 55, a diamondback graptemys. Dean was once headed into a soup for dinner until a little boy convinced his family to allow him to keep it as a pet. He kept Dean for a half century before Cueter was asked if she could provide it a home.

Then there was Spike, whom Cueter first met at a dental office. The family of an employee there found the mud turtle at Green Lake. Because it is not natural to the Pacific Northwest, Cueter agreed to take in Spike.

The amphibian center on the Edmonds waterfront is a busy place these days. Cueter and a team of volunteers are tending to the needs of 37 frogs, nearly the same number of turtles, four lizards and a 23-year-old tarantula named Gertie.

Cueter, who’s commonly called the Frog Lady, is grateful that so many people have shown an interest in her reptile and amphibian friends. She worries about the future of many species that are now considered endangered.

Sunday’s attendance was much larger than she expected.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I got in there and thought, ‘My Turtle Time groups are never like this.’ I was pleasantly surprised. It was heart warming.”

Seven families had turtles of their own at home and were able to get tips on providing better care.

There’s no let-up in Cueter’s schedule. She has 72 events, including several at local libraries, on tap through October.

For more information, go to www.justfrogs.com.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com

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