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Turtle Strolling Down A Rainy City Street This Morning.

July 8, 2011

Snapping Turtle

Early this morning, I was driving to a park for another day of nature appreciation when the ‘partly cloudy’ weather forecast turned into rain.  So I turned around and headed back home.  At the nearest major intersection to where I live, I was waiting at a red light in the half-dark, rain coming down, when I saw something moving slowly in the street on the far side of the intersection.  At first I thought it might have been something floating on the water runoff, but it was actually moving up a slight slope…that’s when I noticed the silhouette of a turtle- and it was a pretty decent size.  A turtle was strolling down the street through a major city traffic light!

I immediately was worried about it- though it was early and rush hour hadn’t started yet, there were some cars waiting for a green light it was walking in front of.  It was too dangerous to jump out in the half-dark rainy conditions to do anything about it…the one good thing was, if I could see it, others could too, and maybe they’d drive around it.  I quickly drove home, grabbed a box, and went back to the intersection.  It only took a couple minutes to get back.  I started looking in the street, but then noticed the turtle in the grassy strip alongside the road a short distance from the intersection.  These pictures were taken on my pocket camera in rainy dim conditions, apologies for the lack of great quality.

How did it get over the curb?  It either walked up the handicap-accessible ramp at the crosswalk, or someone stopped their car and got out and put it on the grass.  Or maybe I’m selling this powerful reptile short, though clambering up a curb would be a chore.  It seemed uninjured.   Notice its  long tail and substantial claws, and its massive head.

I went to pick it up, and it opened its mouth, ready to snap at me.  Yikes!  I picked it up by the shell from behind, and it snapped in vain at empty air.  It was about the size of a football- here it is in the box I put it in.

This is a specimen of Ohio’s biggest turtle, the Snapping Turtle.  Snapping turtles have a fierce reputation- unlike many other turtles they are a bit big to withdraw all the way into their shells, so they snap at threats as a defense mechanism.  So I forgave this one for snapping at me.  These animals enjoy bodies of water and eat a variety of things, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, and even small mammals and birds.  Its not uncommon around this time of year for females to travel distances away from water (preferably in the rain, like this morning) to lay their eggs.  I didn’t want to see this turtle run over on a city street, so I boxed it up and drove to an area park that has both a river and a lake, and set it on the grass near some woods.  It was much calmer about me picking it up the second time.

It sat there unmoving for several minutes, perhaps getting over its recent adventure, being picked up and put in a box and driven around was probably disorienting.  I took a walk around the area in the drizzly weather; when I came back, the turtle had walked off, safely away from the busy streets that it had attempted to navigate.  She was in turtle paradise!

Turtles haven’t changed much in the 200 million years they’ve been around.  These guys were under foot in the Age of Dinosaurs.  They must be doing something right.

I learned an interesting fact about Ohio turtles while reading up on them this morning- the sex of hardshell turtles depends upon the temperature at which the eggs develop at.  Snapping Turtle eggs that develop at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit hatch male turtles, but if the temperature is much higher or lower than that, they hatch female turtles.   Sometimes a clutch of eggs will hatch as females at the warmer top of the nest, while the cooler bottom of the nest will produce males.  Pretty interesting creatures!

Yet again, I was reminded of the fact that you never know where or when you’ll run into interesting wildlife encounters.  Keep your eyes open!

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 3:58 pm

    They must really be on the move around central Ohio – I’ve seen 3 of them crossing roads in the last week. I wasn’t able to stop to move them, but they all seemed to make it across as I didn’t see any “evidence” suggesting otherwise when I went by later.

  2. July 8, 2011 5:07 pm

    You did a good thing there.

  3. July 9, 2011 12:30 am

    Knowing that you cared so much for that creature made my day!

  4. July 9, 2011 11:00 am

    Tracy–thanks so much for dropping by my blog earlier this week…I love your site! Am going to bookmark it and come back to read more of your nature tales…we don’t have snapping turtles in eastern Canada, so I was very interested to read about the one you rescued from near-certain death!
    Great blog.

  5. July 9, 2011 7:44 pm

    Yup, this is the time of year when they’re on the move. A year ago when I was living on the top floor of a raptor rehab center in Ohio, two guys turned up one day with a healthy adult snapping turtle in the bed of their pickup truck, asking if we’d like to have it. I’m not sure they grasped what a raptor rehab center is.

  6. July 9, 2011 10:10 pm

    I admire you going back, picking it up and taking it to safety. I applaud you for taking such good care of the creatures you encounter. You must have a good heart. 🙂

  7. July 10, 2011 11:30 am

    Hey Tracy! Back home for just a couple of days so I am playing catch up with my favs! I cannot tell you how many snapping turtles my husband caught with our kids up north when they were young. Really enjoyed all the details about them. You really let us know what’s what! Also, the firefly post was crazy amazing. Looks like you are enjoying your new camera. See you in August!

  8. July 10, 2011 8:49 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I’ve talked to other people in central Ohio who’ve seen turtles on the move recently- there’s definitely a trend going on here. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says that Snapping Turtle females are often on the move in May and June to lay eggs, so early July is close enough. I’m just happy that no one has mentioned any turtle mishaps so far 🙂

  9. July 11, 2011 6:50 pm

    Our snappers were on the move a few weeks ago. It’s amazing how fast they can be. I’m so glad you stopped and rescued this one. 🙂

  10. July 14, 2011 6:51 pm

    I grew up hearing stories about how my Uncle David used to roam around Western Michigan in search of snapping turtles that needed rescuing. I think they’re lovely creatures. We don’t have them in Texas (that I’ve ever seen… they’re certainly not common), but we have our share of red-eared slider turtles that like to sun on logs and rocks along riverbanks.

    I’m not sure I should mention this because it’s kind of sad, but that intercalary chapter of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath comes to mind. You ensured a much happier ending for this turtle!

  11. July 22, 2011 11:36 am

    Taking care of one another, that’s what life on this planet earth should be about. Kudos for doing the decent and caring thing, moving the turtle to safety.

    You reminded me of an errand I was running to the bank. I was walking down a street in a small community (so small there were no sidewalks on either side of the road) and noticed something walking along in the gravel, it had a pink mark on its back. I approached and noticed it was a turtle, a fairly good sized turtle, with the word “Amber” written on its back with pink nail polish. I carried the turtle to the bank with me and asked if anyone had any ideas about where someone named Amber might live in the area, no one knew. As I was walking home I decided to stop at the house nearest to where I had found him. I knocked on the door and yes, the lady’s daughter’s name was Amber and she lost her turtle when she had it in the backyard.

    I hadn’t thought about that for years…

  12. July 22, 2011 9:46 pm

    What great turtle memories here! 🙂

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