Archive for June 16th, 2009


While walking through the field by the barn this weekend, I came upon this big turtle. The grass is knee-high or taller, and I didn’t see the turtle until I nearly stepped on it. I was startled and surprised to find it there. I went to retrieve my camera and it hadn’t moved when I got back. It was quiet, and didn’t take exception to my presence, except to retract its head slightly. I carefully laid down a tape measure beside it, not too close. The yellow tape is 12 inches long.


The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is Ontario’s largest freshwater turtle. With its big jaws and strong neck muscles it is capable of delivering a powerful bite with a lightning-fast strike. Snappers are aquatic and leave water only to nest and migrate, so I assumed this turtle was on the way down to the river in search of a good nest site, perhaps moving from our man-made pond a bit to the south. As there was no road to cross, I didn’t disturb her further and when I came back later, a trail of pressed-down grass showed that she had moved into a big clump of bushes near to where I had found her.


The next morning, Railguy saw a snapper making its way across the driveway and into the long grass bordering the slippery slope down to the river. We guessed this was the turtle I had seen in the field, finally reaching her destination. However, upon returning from an outing later in the day, we found another large snapper on the driveway. This one was much more belligerent than Turtle No. 1, and I carefully herded it over to the side of the drive to allow Railguy to move the car past.   Look at those powerful claws.


Later, we saw a third snapper. She was resting in the long grass at the side of the drive, ready for the final leg of her journey down to the river. To the left and right of her, you can make out the pressed-down grass trails left by two other turtles who had preceded her. When I returned later, her trail showed she had jogged to the left and followed the path left by one of those earlier travelers down to the river. When I walked along the drive and inspected the grass carefully, I found 8 readily-discernible trails. Below is the site the turtles were heading for. You can report turtle sightings and learn more about turtles and their conservation at the Ontario Turtle Tally site. To read more about snapper eggs, visit The Marvelous in Nature.


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