Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Voice of the Turtle-Not the Dove

It is the season of wandering for turtles.  In our woods they appear across our yard in all sizes and hues as the weather warms and especially as the heavier rains appear.  (And a rare treat if you read all the way to the end.)

We get little baby turtles that look like toys or realistic knick-knacks that belong on grandma's shelf waiting to be dusted.  If you pick them up you risk them pulling in their tiny head for a long while and at the same time peeing in your hand.

Terrapene carolina
 Much of the mud from hibernation has washed off the back of this little guy.  You can see that he has already recognized my presence and is beginning to pull in his head.  If he totally collapses you can sometime hear a small hiss as he expresses the air from his lungs.

Our turtles come in juvenile sizes as well and some years we can feed them strawberries, melons, and small cherry tomatoes and they will return for several days to the same area for more!  They usually live in an area of only 200m.  I am guessing the one above is a year or two old since he/she was about 2.5 inches.

This is also a dangerous time for these slow moving prehistoric reptiles.  When the rains come they begin exploration and cross our many ribbons of black asphalt.  There are nutjobs that actually enjoy flattening them under the tires of their cars as they head to work.  Nutjobs for whom this is a challenge.  I mean this is not the challenge of hitting a running squirrel or low flying bird.  This is like running over a rock!  Then there are the distracted drivers that run over the smaller ones by not really paying attention to that small mound paused in the middle of their lane.  These two below are 5 or six years old and perhaps ready for reproduction.

Our trip out to shop the other day we pulled (carefully) to the side of the road and being even more careful about traffic moved two turtles across to the side where they were headed for safety  BUT we also saw two more a few miles ahead that had met the traffic rush and not survived the wheels of the 3 ton monster.  

Diamond-Back turtles that live in Jamaica Bay in New York head for the beach to lay eggs every spring and some of them have to cross JFK airport runways.  Since the pilots can prevent turtle  kills, I am not sure why the idiot in the car on the way to his job cannot avoid the turtle crossing the road.

While I do not recommend that you pull to the side of the road and risk your life by moving a turtle, I request that you go slower, pump your brake lights to let the person behind you know to be cautious and make every effort to avoid crushing the little guy/gal who cannot get out of the way.

This snapping turtle in the photo below was seen as we left a lodge in the mountains of West Virginia a while back.  We actually backed out and went out the entry side of the road since it was early in the morning and there was very low traffic.  It is rare to see one this size so close because they rarely leave the water.  We had had torrential rains the night before so he might have been washed from his little pond or lake down a ditch and onto the roadway.  Since this is a snapping turtle and has a neck that can snake around all the way to his back feet, he would be dangerous to try to move by hand.

Chelydra serpentina

As you can see above even those claws on his toes look ominous.  (Click on photos to get closer if you dare!)

A few minutes later down the road on our way to bird watch at a nearby refuge we spotted this snapper laying eggs at the gravel at the very edge of the road way!  We guessed the rains had indicated this was the driest area for her.  This was a very rare treat to see such a secretive turtle lay in the wild.  I am concerned about how safe it will be for the little ones when they hatch at the edge of a semi-busy country road.


Kat said...

Wow! Those are quite the turtles!
I used to love little "penny" turtles when I was a kid. Turtles are such cool creatures.

Great pics!

ellen abbott said...

I never see turtles in the wild. When I was growing up on the outskirts of town in a wooded area, we would see box turtles all the time. but the city encroached and now though I live in the country, it is an agricultural area. There is a wild space that has grown up between our neighbor and the field behind that gets wider with every passing year but have not seen any turtles. my 'pet', though has been out of her pond several times looking to dig and lay eggs. they're not fertile though as she has not been around a male for at least 10 years.

Celia said...

I've never seen a snapping turtle close up (or any other way actually) they are formidable! Breaks my heart that anyone would run over them on purpose even though I know they do. Beautiful pictures.

joeh said...

On a local canal, they come out on logs and soak up the sun 5 and 6 at a time. Very cool to catch one laying eggs!

messymimi said...

Yes, i've pulled over and gotten turtles out of the road. Yes, i've seen the nutjobs that like to run over them. It makes me sick.

Brian Miller said...

oh the road side...i dont guess it would be good to move them eh? i might be checking on it frequently...those big turtles are so cool....

Linda Reeder said...

If we have turtles around here I don't know about them and have never seen any.
Very interesting post.

barbara cecelia said...

What an amazing photo you captured of the snapping turtle laying her eggs! In Ky I had lots of turtles on my property and also the surrounding area -- even a big snapper was seen once in a while. My son was bit by a snapper when he was young so your advise of staying away from them is very sound. -- barbara

Granny Annie said...

Most of the turtles around our old Kansas place bear the markings of a painted number. At some time or other they were used in the town turtle races then set free again.

We have a nutjob living around here who drives a red pickup. He makes it his goal to hit ever turtle on the road. Why or for what purpose, I cannot imagine. Perhaps we could implement some kind of a national challenge for gamers to play "Avoid the Turtle" and give them points for every turtle the DON'T hit on the road.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I love seeing them
and frequently spot them here by the woods.
Like you
I stop on the country road and
help them cross :)
The snapping turtles are spotted
and usually just leave them alone.

Mage said...


Peruby said...

I cringed when you mentioned the jerks who hit turtles on purpose. Oooh... that really bothers me.

Snapping turtle - saw one up close. My brother picked it up by the very tiny point of it's tail, put it in a small mower wagon and moved it far away. He always had turtles when we were growing up.