Jun 19, 2012
It’s Snapping Turtle Season!
From late May through June, southern New England experiences the nesting season of an animal that eats almost everything, can live in almost any body of water, and has a bite you want to avoid. Chelydra s. serpentina, or the Common Snapping Turtle, will travel as far as a mile from the nearest water source to lay its eggs. Some prime nest sites include banks, gardens, road embankments, muskrat burrows, and potentially your lawn! About 80 to 90 days after the white ping-pong-sized eggs are laid, between August and October, the baby turtles will hatch and immediately head for water.
When young, they are easy prey for a slew of forest animals; however, after they grow a bit and their shells harden, snapping turtles are effectively predator-free. They will eat plants, fish, frogs, snakes, birds, crayfish, carrion, other smaller turtles, insects, and spiders, and small mammals, lying motionless in the water and then lunging forward at high speeds with their powerful jaws. While it’s a bad idea to let Fido play with the snapping turtle you find nesting in your backyard, the turtle poses no threat if treated with respect. Allow it to finish laying its eggs and it will leave the area.
Many snapping turtles are killed or injured on roads every year. If you find one obstructing your path, try to drive around it; it is dangerous to both you and the turtle to attempt to move it to either side of the road. Contrary to popular belief, turtles should never be picked up by their tails, as this can hurt their vertebral column and dislocate their tail. The turtles are usually slimy and heavy, so picking them up by their shell is a dangerous maneuver; they are flexible enough to reach back and bite you, and will be harmed if dropped. In addition, dragging the turtles can scrape up their legs, leaving open wounds for infection.
Snapping turtles will rarely leave their aquatic habitats outside of mating season unless forced to by construction or pollution. If you happen upon these interesting creatures, feel free to admire from afar, as long as you aren’t disrupting their activities.