Staying one step ahead of a Sulcata Tortoise…Darwin and the mud hole!

And then it rained! A lot!

We did have warning, and to the extent that we could “batten down the hatches” on the property, we did prepare. Rain, once again, has been scarce, and since we do much of our living outdoors, we really move quickly through the checklist covering outdoor furniture, looking after the welfare of Pinky, the rabbit, checking the gutters and rain barrels for debris and in general, a lot of motion wondering if it’s for nothing.

All too often the predicted weather patterns stall north of us or blow on past!

But the same storm responsible for the horrifying mudslides just 100 miles north of us in Montecito dumped heavily in San Gabriel, as well.

As part of our pre-rain preparation, we verified that Darwin’s area, always on our mind, seemed safe. He has a tarped, protected area, although he prefers to burrow near the water heater.

I think we made two errors in judgment!

First, we overestimated his ability to crawl out of a very wet and muddy hole as well as also giving him too much credit, expecting that he’d find his way back under the tarp when it began to rain.

We also completely underestimated how much rain we were to experience.

This photo was taken before the rain.

It was a better protected burrow than it appears in this photo, but I believe our general inexperience with rain falling in such abundance and also within a short span of time certainly added to our ignorance and put Darwin at great risk.

By about 5:00 a.m. worry had me jumpy! Jay navigated around to the side of the house with a flashlight and he did his best (also in pouring rain and half up to his knees in mud and muck from Darwin’s timothy hay) and the alarm bells began to clang!

In Darwin’s attempt to either escape or dig deeper, we don’t actually know, he  undermined the foundation holding the water heater in place, nearly toppling the water heater left barely dangling by its strained earthquake straps.

It also appeared that at one point in the struggle Darwin was probably trapped by the sinking of the cement pad. His shell appeared scraped and he was very, very dirty. Mud alone could have held him down and made it impossible to escape, but he is extremely strong and very determined.

He definitely could have been injured (or worse) and upon further inspection we know the water heater’s pulling away from its moorings could have caused a gas leak. There’s a long list of possibilities if you begin to tally the “what ifs?”

In the end we were only out a few hundred dollars, and grateful we were spared a REAL problem. Even our youngest granddaughter, 8, commented on how little this was in comparison to the stories we were hearing about loss of lives and homes in Santa Barbara County.

Still, as a family we all agree that we need to monitor Darwin’s bulldozing habits!

Today was a little overcast. No rain, but out of precaution I went out on inspection…

and that’s right! There he is again!

He’s nose-in to the shelter containing the water heater and adjacent the scene of the previous mudslide!

We definitely try to anticipate and then accommodate his needs, but he is determined to stick closer to the spot he has picked for himself. No tarped areas with abundant clean and warm timothy hay for him!

Fortunately, the cement is now reinforced and much thicker.

However, next time it rains, I may bring him indoors.

Don’t tell my family!