Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Much Maligned Snapping Turtle

Cute & cuddly, he's not.
While a good many of nature’s creatures have their share of admirers, there are those which the general public, for the most part, hold in low esteem. But like all of God’s creatures, those same critters held in disdain by many, all have a role to play in the natural order.  The Snapping Turtle is one such creature.

The dark green moss covering this turtle's back
 is proof positive he's a sloooooooow moving fella.
His head is larger than a grown man’s fist, characteristics which speak to his longevity. And no, he isn’t much to look at, but he is important to the environment. In addition to dining on plant and animal matter, he is an aquatic scavenger, cleaning up decaying and rotting flesh from its watery environment. 

The claws of the Snapping Turtles come in handy when excavating a nest
 in gravel and hard ground where they like to deposit their eggs
The Snapping Turtle also has earned a bad rap for eating ducklings. While they do on occasion take unwary birds, to be fair, their own young offspring suffer a high mortality rate. Whereas the adults have few predators to contend with, mink, raccoons, opossum, fox, skunks and crows will readily unearth a Snapping Turtle nest and feast on the eggs.  Last weekend, while hiking atop one of the berms on Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area, we counted no less than a dozen or more nests that had been unearthed, all within a half-mile stretch.  The threat doesn’t end there for the young. Hatchlings are subject to the same predators in addition to herons, bitterns, hawks, owls and fishers just to name a few.      

This turtle uses every inch of his long neck while scanning his surroundings. 
Longer than most people realize, the turtle's neck is also heavily muscled and quick as lightning, able to strike in the blink of an eye. He’s an excellent swimmer and while he may move slowly along the ground. many a would-be Good Samaritan attempting to “help” one across the road has learned the hard way just how fast and how far back they can extend their neck.

Lastly, the Snapping Turtle has no choice but to tough out our long northern winter. It was once believed that all Snapping turtles go into a semi-hibernation called torpor, buried in a layer of mud and silt. While some indeed do spend the winter beneath a layer of muck, telemetric studies have shown some specimens fitted with transmitters to be active beneath the ice – nowhere near as active as in the warmer months, but barely moving about and using minimal oxygen.

For sure the Snapping Turtle is frowned upon by many, yet he has been on the scene since time immemorial and he has endured. He is a touch customer a verse from the Good Book comes to mind.  

Job: 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook or snare his tongue with a line which you lower?”

Until next time,
Jim & Claudia 

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