On the first day of school I held a teacher professional development class with the teachers at Stearn’s Elementary School. The topic was Nature in the Schoolyard. The teachers spent 45 minutes collecting nature specimens from the school yard to draw and then identify. Right on cue, a nest of snapping turtles started to emerge from the ground. Twenty seven nickel size babies in all. The teachers took them to their classrooms to have the children fatten them up with worms and crickets and observe their growth with their students. It was a great experience for all since the survival rate is only about 10%, most tender babies are eaten by bullfrogs and great blue heron.
The time had come in the spring to release the little snappers now that they were big enough to survive on their own. Here is a video of the release. The spot where we released them was a tributary of the Housatonic River about 50 feet from the nest site. The water was moving fast, but these little guys were strong.
Good luck little turtles!!
Today walking in the woods we came across this momma turtle, probably looking for a spot to lay her eggs. She looked like a shovelful of mud, but upon closer inspection, this muddy mess had eyes, monster claws and a personality of what one would expect of a dinosaur.
Her scientific name is Chelydra serpentina. Her shell can get as big as 20 inches long (50 cm) and her tail, head and neck can add another 20 inches to her length. This is a big turtle. Snappers can live up to 40 years. This one was big, about 11 inches long, but not the biggest I’ve seen.
If you see a snapping turtle, be careful. The are called snapping turtles for a reason. This turtle cannot pull its head into its shell, instead it needs to protect itself with its sharp beak with a warning hiss. It has a long neck that it can whip around and has the power to snap a broom handle in half if provoked. Don’t try to pick it up by the tail, the tail is part of the skeleton and the spine and this can cause serious damage. Best is to leave them alone and admire them from afar.