Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Snap Happy or Happy Snaps

Still in dressing gown and pyjamas as I finished my breakfast cereal - not Sugar Snaps or those that go 'snap, crackle and pop' - when a movement against the wire fence caught my eye. For some reason or another the first thing that came to my mind was that it was a snapping turtle. I should say that we are at my daughter's home in Michigan.

I grabbed my camera not wishing to miss a snapping opportunity and rushed outside making sure that my daughter's four dogs were not able to follow me. There alongside the fence to the corral behind the house a female snapping turtle was slowly making her way up the slope to the gravel drive.

Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Unfortunately the dogs made their way through the flap in the garage door into the corral the other side of the green wire fence expecting me to play ball with them. They were most unhappy to be shouted at and warned to keep away from the fence - a snapping turtle can give a nasty bite; they are noted for their belligerent disposition when out of the water with a powerful beak-like jaws and their highly mobile neck and head.

This one proved no exception, hissing and rearing up to deliver warning snaps.

The carapace or upper shell may reach nearly 20 inches in length; this one was around 11-12. They can weigh from 10-35lbs.

She had to be moved from the area - to protect the dogs and to avoid her coming back to lay eggs in the gravel drive. Moving her was easier said than done. By now clad in tee shirt and track suit bottoms I had the idea of using a metal snow shovel to move her. But where to was the question. The shortest distance was 50 yards back into the woods and the swamp at the back of the property but that was where she had probably come from.

She was far from happy to be lifted on the shovel, hissing and trying to bite it. Lifting her was not easy as I had to avoid my bottom hand being within the reach of her snapping 'beak.' By the feel of her on the shovel she must have weighed over 10lbs.

My wife had the bright idea of moving her in a small car trailer. She tried in vain to climb up its sides. Eventually I transported her to the end of the road in front of the property and set her free over the other side of the main road. 

We had a happy snapping ending after all. As long as she does not come back.


Little Nell said...

Quite an adventure Bob. Our niece lives in Michigan, I wonder if she’s ever encountered one of those. I expect your cereal had gone all soggy whilst you were away playing ‘Snap’!

Karen S. said...

What a morning in your PJ's too! Very exciting stuff. My first snapping turtle encounter (my girlfriend and I had no idea it was a snapping turtle) was also in Michigan down by the river. Ours was friendly and followed us home, on his/her own but as soon as we reached my girl friend's drive-way her father went a little crazy! But our friendly snapping turtle (must have felt safe) because we led him back to the river and never saw him again!

Howard said...

more exciting than a spider in the bathroom though!

KarenG said...

To me, finding any kind of turtle is an exciting thing! I always want to keep them captive because they are so very cool, but of course I don't. I regretfully let them go on their plodding way.

Jo said...

I once picked on up, young I guess, but it fought so hard I ended up dropping it. Ended getting hurt anyway, but not by its beak. This was in North Carolina. I was only trying to help the damned thing!!!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob .. are they quite common? I guess they can move around .. anyway I sure hope she finds a suitable place to nest ..

What a great story .. and lovely to hear of this adventure .. cheers Hilary

Bob Scotney said...

Hilary - they are found from Canada to Mexico. I haven't found any info on numbers yet but I see them every year in Michigan but this is the first 'close encounter.'

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Well, great job, you guys! Hope you are having a great time on your trip and visiting with all these critters.

Kathy M.