Entries in snapping turtles (3)


Snapping Turtle Tradition 

We love traditions: Thanksgiving dinner, or that annual trip to the beach, or the first trip to the ice cream stand in summer. For me, the annual events that I look forward to are Christmas Bird Count, the salamander big night, and the week in early June when snapping turtles lay their eggs. All of my traditions involve preparation and excited anticipation.

I prepared for snapping turtle week by buying a fishing net. As I left Gander Mountain someone called to me: “butterflies?”—those would be some butterflies!

“Nope, Snapping turtles,” I called back, cheerful.

He rolled his eyes.

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Snapping Turtle Rescue

The snapping turtle rested between the rails of the north bound Amtrak line that rims the Hudson River. If she stayed there, she would be fine, that is, a train would simply sail over her. It must have taken some determination for her to get over the railing—that is the biological willpower of a snapper who wants to lay eggs. But she now looked weary, as if she might not have the resources to get back out. If she loitered on the rails—she’d end up squashed.  Another turtle just twenty feet away, lay with its shell caved in, head severed.



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Love at First Snap

After the first day of my nature writing class at Bard College, a student came up to me and said, “I have twenty baby snapping turtles at home.”

My heart leapt. There is nothing cuter than a baby snapping turtle, not even a kitten. They look like miniature dragons with oversized heads, fragile little shells and spunk. They are all purpose and who doesn’t love a creature that is fully itself, confident in its turtleness. A baby turtle is not yet the belligerent, large snapping adult they will become—when I love them even more.

My student’s lively story unfolded. A friend was building a house in Rhode Island and dug up a snapper nest. He gave her the eggs, which she proceeded to keep in a box of soil in a warm room all summer long. Her mother-in-law arrived from time to time to tell her to just throw out the eggs. But she held on, and finally last week little limbs started to emerge from the ping-pong sized eggs. It took several days for the babies to emerge; every single egg hatched. The turtles had been in the world for three days, living off of their yolk sacks. They now needed to be released.

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