Friday, August 04, 2006

Ancient Visitor

A couple of weeks ago, Bob looked out and saw something on the neighbor's driveway. He went over to investigate and it turned out to be a huge snapping turtle. The turtle had crawled up from the pond behind their house, come around their house and was headed down the driveway. Snapping turtles are primative, mean and dangerous. They can bite through a thumb joint. When they draw their heads back part way in their shells the way this one has, it's easy to misjudge how long their necks are. And they strike fast, like snakes. So Bob did what anyone would do. He ran and got his camera.

He stayed well away while he took these pictures. And then the turtle, evidently fed up, turned and headed back to the pond. We were looking at the pictures last night and Bob noticed something just under the shell at the shoulders. "Parasites," Bob said. "I didn't notice those before."

"No wonder it's cranky," I said.

After a moment he identified the cluster of little translucent-looking stuff as leeches.

At least leeches don't hurt.

When I was a kid people said weird things about snapping turtles. The only way to kill them is to chop of their head, and If they bite you they won't let go even after you chop off their heads. And the strangest, when you chop off a snapping turtle's head, it's heart continues to beat and it won't actually die until after sundown.

I'm glad Bob didn't chop off this one's head. I'm even more glad he didn't get near enough to get bit.


Blogger J. Erik Lundberg said...

Those are some great photos, Maureen. He definitely looks as if life has banged him around a bit.

August 04, 2006 9:16 AM  
Blogger Beth Adele said...

Yay Bob!

I know I'm anthropomorphizing here, but damn, I would NOT mess with any creature with that look in its eye.

August 04, 2006 4:34 PM  
Anonymous ebaygal said...

I have always loved the pre-historic look snappers have. We had oe lay her eggs in a pile of fresh mulch once.

My duaghter and I moved the eggs to a suitable spot and the little guys hatched ~80 days later.


August 05, 2006 8:18 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

From my childhood readings in herpetology, I gather that the bite strength of snapping turtles is widely exaggerated. Their bite may hurt like hell, but they can't take off a finger.

August 05, 2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...


Do their hearts beat until sundown? Or wasn't that covered?

August 05, 2006 5:37 PM  
Blogger Karen at Pen in Hand said...

Your animal-encounter story beats my animal-encounter story with a stick. Or perhaps with hatchet.

August 06, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger CW said...

"He ran and got his camera."

LOL - great presence of mind, and great pictures! I would have gawped and forgotten all about the camera....

August 06, 2006 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Walt Farrell said...

Great pictures and story, Maureen. We encountered a snapping turtle sitting in the middle of a low-traffic road a few years ago.

Figuring that was not safe place for it we stopped the car and I tried to move it. I found it could strike quickly, and to our great surprise, spin around quickly. That ended my plan to sneak up from behind and grab it, avoiding the head.

In the end, we left it there to take its chances.


August 09, 2006 6:17 AM  

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